Whether you’re 9 or 90, there’s something at The Washington State History Museum’s latest interactive exhibit, Toytopia, that will cue the wavy flashbacks and evoke a strong sense of nostalgia.
There is a life-size dollhouse, complete with sound-effects like a toilet flush and a lawn mower. There is a giant Etch-a-Sketch and a Monopoly car. There is also a retro video arcade featuring classic games like Donkey Kong Jr. and Asteroid, no quarters required.
And if you’re a fan of the movie Big, you’ll enjoy the giant piano. Though admittedly, it is much harder to play Heart and Soul in your socks than Tom Hanks makes it look. Also on display is the fortune-telling Zoltar machine, made famous in the same film, dishing out advice.
The traveling Toytopia exhibit was put together by Stage Nine Entertainment, a family of specialty retail stores in Sacramento, California. The stores feature items pertaining to pop culture, movies, television, nostalgia, animation, clothing, and other unique memorabilia items, including toys.
Troy Carlson, the owner of Stage Nine Entertainment, explained his objective in creating the exhibit. “Our goal was to capture the essence of childhood wonder; that dream of being in a world of toys,” he said in a statement.
Toytopia doesn’t just put toys on display. The exhibit also explains the toys’ history and their significance to the time-period in which they were made.
“Everybody loves toys. And when you start thinking about toys and play, and the evolution of those things, it’s a real touchstone. There are those historical and nostalgic moments in our lives that are punctuated by toys,” said Mary Mikel Stump, the museum’s director of audience engagement. “You can also tell a lot about what was happening in the United States at a particular time a toy was created by the materiality of toys. If we were at war they weren’t metal toys, they were paper. Even those shifts are reflected.”
Toytopia will be at the Washington State History Museum from Feb. 16 through June 10. An adults-only after-hours event called Press Play will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Feb. 22, and will include a life-size version of Oregon Trail, beer from Olympia’s Three Magnets Brewing, and wine. Since the event is kid-free, child care will be available at the Tacoma Children’s Museum.