If you would be so kind as to indulge our navel-gazing and allow us an undeniably meta-moment of self-reflection, we would like to share with you a few thoughts on the BridgmanCollaborative Construction and Building Toys Collection.
The collection was first inspired by a toy design project in Rae St. Clair Bridgman’s Child Friendly Cities course at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture. The collection’s first toy was a set of Educational Building Blocks from M-I Toys, one of Rae’s most beloved childhood toys. Rae’s collecting quickly snowballed from there, and today the collection is a testament to nostalgia and a tribute to the importance of the world of the child. From toys past and present we can learn so much of the social, political, stylistic and aesthetic trends of their time, helping us to design, consider, and play better for future generations.
Despite our love of building toys and enthusiasm for lifelong learning and play, we are aware of and must acknowledge that the collection has gaps – not all countries, backgrounds, and experiences are represented. The collection doesn’t include the backyard tree that was a fort, a pirate ship and a friend; nor the leaves, dirt, fabric scraps, loose buttons and forgotten hair pins that fueled hours of imaginative play for you, for us, for children today and in the future. This is a note to say that we do not dismiss or discredit the scraped-together inside-outside messy no-toy-stores-involved toys, or those lovingly made by family, friends, and talented small-scale artists. Or those from other cultures and countries that we haven’t gotten the chance to experience yet. These are the kinds of toys which are harder to come across, but we know of them, love them, and seek them out and add them when we can. If you are or know of a small toy business, or have questions, comments, or suggestions, don’t hesitate to let us know here!
Our passion for construction and building toys is shared by toy museums and toy collections of various categories and sizes around the world, including The National Building Museum’s Architectural Toy Collection in Washington, D.C., which received a donation in 2006 of over 2300 toys dating from 1860 to 1990, plus The Canadian Centre for Architecture’s Architectural Toy Collection in Montreal, which features over 800 toys donated in 1990 and representing over 200 years of toy design in 5 countries. Additionally, many cities globally are host to toy museums, often including architectural toys. Find some of our favourites below!
- Nadine Lowden, August 2021
National Building Museum
Canadian Centre for Architecture
Canadian Museum of History
Brighton Toy and Model Museum