x0x The Toy Museum
- [See more on this subject by visiting the pages
selected for you by Anita Donohoe:
x0x The Toy Museum
By FUSUN AKAY
Istanbul finally has a toy museum, and the name of
its founder will come as no surprise: poet and
writer Sunay Akin. Akin, who discovered the museum
game by arranging his mothers jewelry in a drawer
at age six, has never lost his enthusiasm for it.
Now he has brought together toys of the world in
an historic mansion in Istanbul's Goztepe
district. Some 4 thousand toys, produced from the
late 1800s up to the 1980s, are assembled here in
a museum that will teach tiny visitors about the
past and imbue them with an awareness of history
while taking adults on a journey back in time. The
museum opening is scheduled for 23rd April
Children's Day, which was instituted by Ataturk as
a gift to the world's children. Opening on this
special day, when children from all over the globe
converge on Turkey for the celebration, the museum
will sweep away the mists of time, arousing by
turns laughter and moments of strong emotion.
A toy is something that a child plays with for a
while and then either casts off or gives away when
he's tired of it. Where did you get the idea of
combining this with the concept of a museum?
When I was six years old I came to Istanbul with
my family for summer vacation. I saw the
museums-Topkapi, the Archaeological Museums...
When we got back to Trabzon I took a large drawer
out of the dresser and put my mother's jewelry in
it. Bracelets, earrings, necklaces... I wanted to
take them outside and play with them with my
friends. But none of my friends would play. My
'museum game' soon came to an end anyway when my
mother stuck her head out the window and let out
an earsplitting shriek.
The dictionary defines a toy as 'something that
entertains'. What do toys mean to you?
A toy is the single solid bridge between a child
and his parents, a means of communication. But
perhaps most important of all, cultures are born
What, for example?
They're going to plunge like deep sea divers into
a journey to the depths of their souls. So they'd
better bring their oxygen tanks with them or else
they could get the bends! Looking at a toy can
trigger a vivid memory of a moment a person may
not have recalled in years.
He may see in that toy a childhood friend, or
perhaps better understand the father who was
unable to buy him that toy. Or perhaps he'll see
his mother or his aunt playing with the toy on the
living room rug. This can be an extremely
And when children go through the museum?
Above all else they are going to understand what
culture is. They are also going to see that the
thing they love best has a history. Friends of
mine, for example, who have gone through the
museum with their children have told me: "When we
got home, my boy gathered up all his toys for the
first time and arranged them neatly on shelves."
At the very least we will teach children to value
the objects they own.
How many toys are there in the museum and how did
you develop the collection?
That's a very important question. I never set out
to create a collection. I bought my first toy with
the idea of founding a museum. That toy was a
horse made between 1910 and 1920 that I bought
from an antique dealer in Berlin.
With him as my mount, I arrived like Don Quixote
at the place where I am today. At present there
are approximately four thousand toys. But I am
continuing to acquire more, and I also accept
Is the exhibit arranged according to any
Design artist Ayhan Dogan and his colleagues had a
big hand in the arrangement. What we wanted was
that this not be a place where the toys are lined
up on shelves. That's why the museum has been
designed like a series of stages in a theater.
Every room is a stage. And the visitors are the
players...Some sections of the museum have themes,
others don't. Space toys, for example, are
exhibited in the 'Outer Space Room'. Ships and
airplanes are exhibited together in another room
to symbolize travel, the dream of going beyond the
horizon. . In the 'Circus Room' you'll find a
concept of entertainment from a hundred years ago.
We also included the shop of the 'Toymaker of
Eyup', who started the history of toy-making in
Turkey. You'll find there an old man making a toy.
In another room there are paper toys together with
There's also a room based on the concept of the
weapon as a toy. That's probably the one that will
leave the most profound impression on visitors. We
are going to decorate the walls of that room,
which will contain toys made during the Nazi
period, with photographs of the children who died
in the concentration camps. Anne Frank is one of
them... I've also put cars and monkeys together in
one of the rooms since I believe that love of the
automobile has turned people into monkeys. In
short, the arrangement is a little whimsical, like
writing a poem...
You say that the imagination is always a step
ahead of science and that a toy lies at the heart
of many an invention. Based on this, can we say
something about the future by looking at toys?
Before he went to the moon, man made toys that
could go there... a car, for example, open on top,
a train, and a ship, all for going to the moon. If
it hadn't been for those toys, Apollo 11 would
never have happened. Following the First World
War the Germans made the most wonderful toys. The
German achievement is indisputable.
Then, in the 50s and 60s the Japanese produced the
best toys. Today it's China. As for the future,
So, when you consider toys from the standpoint of
'design', what do you see?
As far as design goes, there are two important
milestones in the history of toys. The first is
the period of the steam engine. It was in those
days that mechanical windup first toys appeared.
Of course motion pictures have also had a major
impact on toys. Almost all the characters are
taken from the movies. But children have added a
lot to toys, too. The second milestone was the
battery. Toys were now able to move independently
of the child while the child sat back and watched.
Today we have computer games. Movement in these
games is more functional, more multi-faceted, but
it's also farther removed from the child because
the player is not actually part of the scene but
more like a slavish appendage. The child used to
be the actor, now he's just an 'extra'.
Do you have other dreams waiting to be realized?
Yes, of course. I'd like to found a children's
museum in memory of Dr. Besim Omer. Dr. Besim Omer
is the man who opened Turkey's first birth clinic
in 1892 despite a ban by the Ottoman palace. His
hospital building is still standing and I would
like to open a 'Museum to being a child in
Istanbul and in Anatolia' there. It would have
everything under the sun relating to children in
it, from kids' clothing to the statues of children
found among archaeological ruins.