|By Susan Blower
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In an experimental social media campaign, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis invited visitors to its website to vote for their favorite classic toy from the past 100 years. More than 24,000 votes and 600 personal stories later, GI Joe, like the fighter he is, came out on top, followed by Transformers and LEGO toys.
The enthusiastic response surpassed museum staff expectations, resulting in extra foot traffic to see the top 20 toys showcased at the museum. In many cases, people not only voted but posted their stories and pictures online.
“We at the museum have all overheard stories about these toys from people’s childhood. This (event) has made people giddy kids again as they remembered what they played with,” said Jennifer Pace-Robinson, vice president of experience development and family learning at the children’s museum.
The following is the top 20 in order: GI Joe, Transformers, LEGO toys, Barbie, View-Master, bicycle, Cabbage Patch Kids, crayons, Play-Doh, Monopoly, Raggedy Ann, Hot Wheels, Etch A Sketch, Spirograph, Little Golden Books, Lincoln Logs, Candy Land, roller skates, Silly Putty and Mr. Potato Head.
The museum staff had selected 100 toys from their collection, from which voters could choose.
“These are classic toys with long histories. Our criteria were that the toys had stood the test of time and were intergenerational,” Pace-Robinson said.
The third requirement was that the toys had to be in the Children’s Museum collection. Since the museum is home to 15,000 toys and dolls, 120,000 items altogether, this last requirement was not too strenuous. Since there are so many in the museum’s collection, toys are routinely rotated from storage into various displays, said Andrea Hughes, curator of American collections.
“We’re not saying GI Joe was the top toy of all time. The toy had to be in our collection,” Hughes explained.
Barbie’s No. 4 spot was a surprise to some.
“I thought Barbie would be in the top three,” Hughes said.
Grandparents and young families have come to look at the exhibit, which has prompted staff to consider showcasing all of the 100 toys, along with select visitors’ stories, Pace-Robinson said. She said the museum will do more social media events to coordinate with new exhibits in the future.
“This was a test for us. We were really happy with the results. We did not expect such a huge response. People even took the time to send pictures,” Pace-Robinson said.
Still posted on the website, www.childrensmuseum.org, there are pictures of a woman’s Barbie-decorated Christmas tree, of Raggedy Ann, and of GI Joe in scuba gear, along with many others.
“Childhood memories were provided by fans across the nation and internationally as well, with stories submitted from Germany, Canada and Australia,” said Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO of the museum.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is geared toward families, with exhibits for pre-school children and up, Pace-Robinson said. The museum is also online at Facebook.com/childrensmuseum and YouTube.com/IndyTCM.