Game Over – Toy Story #1

September 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 1 Comment
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A recent newspaper article brought a piece of not so good news – one of the privately owned museums featuring toys from Shanghai had closed down few months ago after only five years. 😦

Read the full Sunday Times article here

Owner and director Mr Marvin Chan of the Museum of Shanghai Toys (MoST) had to quit the game because of low number of visitors and high operation cost. I doubt most Singaporeans do not even know of its existence at Rowell Road.

Itchyfingers remembered our visit to MoST during one of the earlier International Museum Day, when it was listed as one of the museums offering free admission. Er, ok, being cheapos, Itchyfingers always like to seek out such lobangs…I remembered it took us some time to locate the small three-storey shophouse.

The entrance was bright and cheerful with its bear mascot. We were
welcomed by the huge bear handling us a small booklet, probably inspired
by the Little Red Book

Step inside and it was like being transported back in time. All kinds of old Chinese toys from the late Qing dynasty to the 1980s were displayed on shelves, hung from ceiling and placed on the floor.

The words said, “Chinese toys are made for children from China and around
the world.”

Some background on Shanghai toys from the museum’s brochure

All sorts of toys labelled nicely…

Even walls were adorned with items and magazine covers from old Shanghai…

Some were really old pieces, while others like this red tin soldier has
replicas made for sale in shops

As it was a free museum day, it was pretty crowded with families. But the interesting thing was, the most excited person always seemed to be the parents, especially when they spotted something familiar or something that were part of their childhood. The place felt alive with fond memories and stories of the growing years. The toys had spoken for themselves.

To make it more interactive, the little red passport booklet which we received had blanks for visitors to stamp on. Based on different theme of the museums, visitors searched for the stamps with the correct answers in exchange for a small toy at the end of the visit. Itchyfingers simply love stamps! Hahaha…so we also had a fun time looking for answers..

The first stamp to gather was of course the bear mascot!

It was obvious that the owner did his research before putting up the
museum, as can be seen from the hints on the passport – every toys had
a story behind them…

The stamp designs also reflected the design of the toys..

1960s saw a huge demand for space toys…

Even fashion trends were reflected on toys! I think you can still buy this
chicken toy in the market now…

There was also a corner for watching Chinese cartoons from the old days. Itchyfingers sat through one, but I had now forgotten the title of it.

A pity Itchyfingers didn’t take a lot of photos due to the low light condition. We took a couple of video clips instead. The following images were extracted from the clips.

Astro Boy!

Not all on display were toys. On the third levels, there were also old
stationery and items like these milk bottles…

Nice watercolour box

The “China Good Son and Daughter” crayons…haha…only 60 cents

Some cute shaped pencil sharpeners..

Fan, piano, horse, iron, house…pencil sharpener of all kinda shapes

There were even telephone (the dial-up one!), calculator, violin, clock,
doggy, elephant, thermal flask….So cute…

We stayed only about an hour or so as it was crowded in the small space shared among toys and visitors…and we also wanted to visit other museums as well… :p But the overall verdict was it was certainly worth paying MoST a visit. The newspaper report said the owner “does not think price was what kept people away but a lack of museum-going culture here and poor publicity were the main contributing factor” and that “request for support from the government agencies were futile”. I remembered the price was $8 for adult but the report said it was $5…maybe the price dropped later due to low number of visitors? But I thought the location was a bit out of place, unlike those in the city. As for publicity, maybe the museum could have taken more pro-active steps to tie up with more travel agencies or schools; or participate more during the International Museum Day? As long as I remembered, that time when Itchyfingers visited was about the time they just opened, and subsequently they were not under the list of museums with free admission. Maybe as a private museum, it could have offered a nominal five or ten percent discount to attract visitors? It should be a fairly small price to pay in order to tap on the publicity of the Museum Day. But I also agree that people who are not interested in museums would never step into one, whether it be discounted price or free admission, which is a sad thing. I still remembered passing by some time last year and it was closed for preparation of new exhibits and I had told myself to check it out again when they are ready. Never did I expect to see the sad news on the paper. Such a pity that MoST had closed down quietly, giving people who like it no chance for a revisit. But I guess the saddest person should be the owner, having to give up his dream of allowing the next generation to learn a bit about old toys and their history. 😦

The brochures and my little passport would now be my memories of MoST

The next time you visit Shanghai, try to look for MoST there, as the owner is planning to move his entire collection there, where he co-owns a factory producing toys for export.


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  1. i feel super sad to learn of this news too… i never got a chance to find it…

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