I love getting mail from artists and readers around the world! After reading my feature on France’s amazing vintage toy collection (Les Arts Decoratifs), painter Kari Cholnoky wrote to tell me of a similar collection in Singapore. Cholnoky, who is currently a resident artist at INSTINC Space in Singapore, enjoyed a visit to MINT and sent over these great photos.
Singapore’s MINT (Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys) Museum of Toys is “the world’s first purpose-built museum for toys”. MINT opened to the public in May of 2006 as a showcase for the toy collection of Singapore citizen, Mr. Chang Yang Fa. MINT is now considered to be the largest collection of vintage toys within Southeast Asia. The collection includes over 50,000 pieces of childhood memorabilia from more than 40 countries, including Singapore, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Bulgaria.
MINT boasts the largest collection of space-related toys and teddy bears in all of Southeast Asia (and possibly the world). Toys in the collection date from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century and are organized across five floors. The fourth floor, for instance, is dedicated to character toys. It features a giant array of Batman and Popeye toys, with rarities like a Batman Robot (one of two known to exist in the world) and a battery-operated Popeye Tank (one of four known to exist in the world).
The third floor is reserved for “childhood favorites”. In addition to the teddy bear collection, there’s a 1930s Musical Bonzo by Steiff (only one known to exist in the world), and the largest ‘Door of Hope’ Doll Collection in the world (more than 150 dolls, including the Manchurian Lady and twenty-four other types of dolls).
Like the French toy collection, the Singapore collection also focuses on the stories and historical value of these toys:
One of the objectives of the museum is to reach out to the child in every one of us, giving visitors an emotional link to their childhood, one which has often been long forgotten. In addition, a visit to the museum is also a journey of discovery. More than mere playthings, the vintage toys on display reflect interesting international cultural trends and historically accurate events that have taken place over the centuries. Each of them tells a different story that represents the era in which they were made in.
Unfortunately, unlike the Decorative Arts toy collection, we can’t browse the MINT collection online…yet. However, with all the care that’s been put into assembling and displaying the toys at MINT, I’d think the future holds a good shot at a searchable database.
Much more ahead! Click through for toys!
Back in meatspace, a world-class toy collection demands world-class architecture. The MINT collection is displayed in a contemporary building designed by Singapore architectural firm, SCDA Architects. Check out this trivia:
- The building’s façade is unique in that it has been specifically designed to exclude external lighting into the building, in order to minimise, if not prevent the damaging effects of Ultra Violet light.
- The lighting system for the acrylic shelving is unique in that light is allowed to pass through the entire shelving and yet does not cause any shadow to be cast by the toys on display.
- A lenticular panel provides a chronological visual record of comics from the Silver Age to the Platinum Age and also provides an idea of what is being displayed in the Museum.
Cholnoky writes: “The museum itself is seriously cool: Golliwogs, Bonzo the Dog, etc. Some old school shit. Another highlight for global toy collections!”
Among Cholnoky’s favorites? ”Miss Busy Bee The Typist” (below), which shows that “if girls dream big enough, they too can grow up to be typists”. Ha! Miss Busy Bee (and those Golliwogs) wouldn’t go over very well in today’s world, but then again, that controversial tokidoki Barbie got people talking, too. And there’s always Gay Bob (and Gay Billy). We may not know for another hundred years how history remembers punk dolls with tattoos and gay dolls in chaps–which is precisely why these toy museums are so wonderful and important!
Visit the MINT Museum of Toys when next you’re in Singapore. I hope I can, too, someday! [Thanks again, Kari!]