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Toy Museum gets serious about playthings • Brooklyn Paper

Toy Museum gets serious about playthings

Play thing: Marlene Hochman’s Toy Museum has finally got a home — and it’ll celebrate its Montague Street space this week.
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

What’s the problem with kids these days? Marlene Hochman says it’s that the tots don’t play anymore. Fortunately, she’s just opened a museum that hopes to play a role in changing that.

“Today’s children need to come here and relearn how to play,” insisted Hochman, standing inside her Toy Museum of New York, the institution that she founded in 1999 in hopes of helping kids reconnect to their playthings.

Though it’s been around for a decade, the Toy Museum finally got a permanent home this month when it got a nifty space inside St. Ann’s Church on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. It’s not the biggest museum in the city, but for kids today, it’s an important start.

“Kids are so caught up in electronics, that we’re losing a generation of innovators,” she said. ”They need to learn to explore, to fail and to make something on their own.”

The new space is roughly the size of a toy executive’s living room, but it’s stocked with action figures of superheroes and sports stars. Dolls from the 18th century look on as an old train set make its way around a miniature winter wonderland. Some toys, like the figurines in the doll houses, can be fiddled with, though others are kept under glass.

And though it’s a toy museum, you won’t find any Atari, Nintendo or Miss Pac Man. Sure, it’s a shrine to toys, but real toys, not electronic gizmos.

Of course, ending her curating at the mid-1980s was a conscious choice for Hochman, who said her goal is to rekindle children’s love affairs with the toy.

“I want to be able to preserve the best toys,” she said. “I love knowing that some doll from the 1870s was in some girl’s bedroom.”

Play thing: Marlene Hochman’s Toy Museum has finally got a home — and it’ll celebrate its Montague Street space this week.
The Brooklyn Paper / Bess Adler

Toy Museum of New York [157 Montague St. between Henry and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 243-0820]. Open Wednesday-Sunday. Adults, $10; children, $5.

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