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Oberlin exhibit showcases toys from the past

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    Oberlin Heritage Center collections manager Maren McKee demonstrates Wednesday how to play with a whirligig, a toy that entertained Victorian-era children.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    Children would have played with a Staffordshire Childs Tea Set during the mid to late 1800's. This tea set is on display at the Oberlin Heritage Center.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    The Oberlin Heritage Center has a collection of toys on display that children would have played with throughout the 1800-1900's, such as ice skates, roller skates, and paper dolls.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    Children from the Victorian-era played with paper dolls, that were oftentimes cut out of magazines. Paper dolls were inexpensive toys for children to play with.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    The Oberlin Heritage Center has a collection of toys on display that children would have played with throughout the 1800-1900's, such as this teddy bear from the early 1900's.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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OBERLIN — It’s Christmas time at Oberlin Heritage Center with a mini-exhibit at the Monroe House featuring children’s toys and games from the past.

Through Thursday, the Heritage Center is offering guided 20-minute tours of the exhibit with collections manager Maren McKee from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays on the hour. The cost is $3 for adults and is free to center members, college students and children.

Though the house is a working museum, for most of its history the house was a family home for several families including James and Julie Monroe and their children.

A China doll from the 1850s that belonged to a friend of the Monroes’ eldest daughter, Emma, and a well-loved Steiff mohair teddy bear sit on the couch in the living room where the family danced around and played music, according to McKee.

A top hat belonging to Henry Churchill King, the sixth president of Oberlin College, served as a prop for parlor games like trivia or Balderdash. There’s also a stereoscope, a device for viewing a pair of separate images for the right and left eye that when viewed together appear as a single three-dimensional image. The modern day equivalent would be a View-Master.

“Oftentimes the cards would depict famous foreign location so you could take a little trip around the world from the comfort of your own home,” McKee said.

Pictures are laid out on a dining room table of women playing tennis, children riding their bikes and the teddy bear when it was brand new. A delicate pink tea set from England, which was a Christmas gift, is still in pristine condition.

In another room, McKee has out toys that visitors can play with including a wooden marble slide from the 1930s, and modern re-creations of Jacob’s ladder, a whirligig, a cup and ball, and quoits, better known as table-top ring toss.

There are ice skates from 1870s with nothing more than a platform and blades; the full boot-style skate wouldn’t become popular until decades later.

Paper dolls show the styles of the time. The women have layers and layers and clothes and fancy hats and the girls have full skirts and shiny black shoes.

“This house is mostly used to tell the history of the town of Oberlin, so we’re always looking for ways to branch out from that and show artifacts in our collection that don’t get to see the light of day very often,” McKee said. “It’s sparked a lot of conversations between the generations.”

Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or jweinberger@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jodi_Weinberger.

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