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Play's the Thing

Toy museum’s not just for tots.


Toy Fair, the 103-year-old trade show that’s in town this weekend, maintains a strict policy about keeping out its most important consumer—nobody under 18 is admitted. But they’ll find themselves welcome at the West Side’s Ethical Culture Society for the Fifth Annual Toy Expo and Cultural Festival, run by Marlene Hochman from the Doll and Toy Museum of New York City. Hundreds of antique playthings will be on display, and many one-of-a-kind constructions will be for sale. Those so inclined can attend demonstrations and learn how to make their own gadgets and gizmos. For the Simon Cowell wannabe, judging opportunities will be on tap, as pint-size toy inventors—the finalists in a competition that began last October—compete to create what they hope will become the next Yu-Gi-Oh! (We were most impressed with the Know Your Government board game by Belinda Rosen, age 11, and with Superfreak, a learn-to-dance game by Nicholas Giliberti, 9.) But taking a bite out of the $20 billion toy industry is no easy task, says Hochman. Since she established the nonprofit museum in 1999—one of some 100 toy museums around the world—she’s yet to gather funding for a permanent location and continues to forage for low-cost space in Brooklyn. For now, portions of the 10,000-piece collection, much of which was donated by Robert Milne (A. A. “Winnie the Pooh” Milne’s cousin and a noted collector), can be seen as satellite exhibits at the Donnell branch of the New York Public Library and, this fall, at the New York Transit Museum. “Kids really get a kick out of our collections,” says Hochman. “It’s nothing you would find at Toys ’R’ Us.”

2/11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
Ethical Culture Society, Social Hall, 2 W. 64th St., nr. Central Park W.; 718-243-0820 or $5 grown-ups, $2 seniors and kids.


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