From Magna Doodle, View Master, Rubik’s Cube and Chutes and Ladders to Barbie dolls and Star Wars action figures, Please Touch Museum®’s Collections feature over 25,000 items—primarily toys manufactured after 1945—that are an integral part of the Please Touch Museum experience. All items in the museum’s collection are a developmentally appropriate means for interpreting the history of child life. The collections are used both in exhibits throughout the gallery floor, and as part of the museum’s educational programs.
Toys guide play, engender creativity and cultivate the imagination, while offering children ways to develop their brain power in strategic and critical thinking…and toys help children in all the stages of play: social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language. Please Touch Museum is a child’s first experience with a museum. With interest in what children learn at Please Touch, they often become life-long collectors and museum visitors.
The Slinky: The Ever Popular, Mechanical Marvel
The Slinky was invented by Richard T. James, a naval engineer in 1943 in Philadelphia! He first demonstrated the toy in Gimbels department store in 1945. It was an immediate best-seller–he sold his stock of 400 in ninety minutes. The original cost was $1. Richard James and his wife Betty formed James Industries to manufacture Slinky and other related toys, They first operated in Clifton Heights, PA and later moved to Hollidaysburg, PA in 1960. The company was sold to POOF Products, Inc. in 1990. Since 1943 over 300 million Slinkys have been sold!
The museum’s primary collection consists of cultural artifacts and supporting documentation representing the history of American childlife. Toys are the primary collection focus. Artifacts representative of worldwide cultures, childlife in the
Philadelphia region, and art will be acquired based on program and exhibition needs. Timeframe for collecting objects is post World War II (1945 – present) due to relevance to current multigenerational audience. The categories include:
Contemporary Toy Collection
The Contemporary Toy Collection consists of objects representing the yearly top selling trends in the toy industry and our core organizational theme of play, regardless of age.
Historical Childlife Collection
The Historical Childlife Collection documents the material culture of childhood. Objects included are children’s toys and the ephemera associated with them, especially from children seven and younger or from the Delaware Valley region. The focus of the collection is the 20th century with special emphasis from 1945 to the present. Included are the set and props from the Captain Noah and His Magical Ark television show.
The Childlife Archives include photographs and written or printed primary materials which enhance and document other parts of the collection.
The Art Collection consists of artwork appropriate for children based upon the Art Framework of Please Touch Museum. The categories include Observational Art, Parallel Art, and Interactive Art. Commissioned art that falls into the categories of Observational and Parallel Art will in most cases be accessioned into the collection.
1876 Centennial Era (1870-1880). The priority for these objects are obtained on loan; however we seek artifacts and memorabilia that tell the story of the family and child’s experience at the Centennial in 1876. These are contextual to exhibits only. Some non-copy-righted items may be acquired to serve as templates for reproduction and use in interactive exhibit experiences.
Memorial Hall (1874 – current)
The priority for these objects is to obtain these on loan; however we seek artifacts and memorabilia that tell the story of Memorial Hall, its history and as the home of Please Touch Museum. These are contextual to exhibits only. Some non-copy-righted items may be acquired to serve as templates for reproduction and use in interactive exhibit experiences.
The Archives maintains documents, objects and materiel relating to the history and development of Please Touch Museum. Records are gathered from every department in the Museum based on the Records Retention Schedule.
Where do museum collections come from?
Since opening in 1976, Please Touch Museum began collecting objects for exhibits and programs. Many of these items were donated by staff, visitors and friends of the Museum. Others were purchased by staff at stores, auctions, flea markets and garage sales. In 1983, the museum re-energized the collection to focus on Contemporary Toys and Historic Childlife—including collecting items important to children in the Delaware Valley. This began the basis for the Childhood Treasures “collection” of the television set and archives of Captain Noah and His Magical Ark, the monorail from Wanamaker’s Department Store, the Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel and more.
Please Touch Museum works with a variety of toy manufacturers and vendors to collect contemporary toys. Museum staff continues to purchase some items from auctions and sales, but the majority of objects come from donations by individuals. The Curator works with donors to document the history of the objects and prevent duplication of objects. A Board of Directors Collection Committee reviews major acquisitions to ensure they fit within the scope of collection, the Museum’s mission, as well as ensure that they can be given the proper care for posterity. Objects, once in the collection, are researched, cataloged, photographed, numbered, stored and made ready for use by the Museum—and preserved for future generations of visitors to Please Touch Museum!
Why don’t we exhibit everything?
With over 25,000 objects and archives, the collection is too large to be exhibited all at one time. The Museum rotates collections to show the greatest number of objects to the public, and to preserve fragile items that can be damaged by long-term exhibition. Some items may go out on loan to other museums, or be utilized by researchers and historians when not on display. Some objects are important to preserve for research, but are too fragile for exhibition.
How are museum collections stored?
Please Touch Museum maintains special collections storage and workspace area with supplies, equipment, research and reference material and more to take care of all the Collections. When necessary, specialized consultants review specific objects and collections categories for conservation.
- Objects, art and archive collections must be stored at a constant temperature and humidity, and in a pollution and chemical free atmosphere. Special ultraviolet filters are used to prevent light damage (such as fading)
- Acid-free materials (file folders, boxes, tissue) and specialized shelving and cabinets support objects
- Staff track the location of objects through thorough record-keeping procedures, including description, photographs, and entry into a special collections record database
- 24-hour security systems protect collections
- Highly trained staff handle collections carefully to prevent breakage
Do you have something that you would like to donate to Please Touch Museum?
The Collections Department does accept new objects for the Museum’s collections. If you have something that you would like to donate, please contact our staff before you bring your donation to the Museum. You can do this in three ways:
- Send an email to our Curator- firstname.lastname@example.org Please be sure to include your name, contact information, and a detailed description, including pictures of the item(s) you would like to donate.
- Call the Collections Department at 215-578-5165. Please leave a message with your name, your contact information, and a detailed description of the item(s) you would like to donate.
- Send a letter addressed to “Curator”, Please Touch Museum, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131. Please be sure to include your name, contact information, and a detailed description, including pictures of the item(s) you would like to donate.
Guidelines for donating to the collections of Please Touch Museum:
Always make arrangement with Museum staff before bringing your donation to the museum. There are special procedures and legal paperwork that must be completed to document all donations.
Donation offers are reviewed periodically by Museum staff and the Collections Committee. Please note, we cannot accept every donation that is offered. Museum staff will notify potential donors whether or not their donation has been accepted.
Because Please Touch Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, donations accepted are tax-deductible. Donors are responsible for establishing the value of their donation for tax purposes, the Museum cannot provide appraisals or recommend specific appraisers.
Support for Please Touch Museum’s Collection is provided by: