by Jeannie Swales
The everyday objects of today inevitably become the museum exhibits of tomorrow.
Our exhibit of the week this week dates from 1990 – we can be confident about the accuracy of that date because this play intercom phone was the childhood toy of Scarborough Museums Trust Collections Manager Jennifer Dunne, who has now kindly donated it to the Scarborough Collections social history section.
See how neatly it’s been stored away and preserved – Jennifer was clearly destined for a career in museums. She recalls using it to talk to her cousins when they played at their grandparents’ big Victorian house.
“We’d make dens and pretend we were in a war bunker and that the intercom was our ‘comms’. My smallest cousin would often get scared and run out of the den, shattering the illusion!” she says.
Blue Box is a Chinese company that is still producing toys today, using exactly the same branding. It was founded in 1952 by Peter Chan Pui, now the company chairman, and made its name with its first toy, a ‘drinks and wets’ doll – a lavatorial version of the classic Tiny Tears, which ‘drank’ and then cried (Tiny Tears herself was later to gain the ‘wetting’ function).
Blue Box currently employs over 6,000 workers, most of them at two manufacturing plants in the south of China, with a small number at the Hong Kong headquarters.
It produces toys for younger children, electronics, and collectible figures, including, in its Elite Force range, a ‘celebrity doll’ of former US president George W Bush depicted as he landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003, in naval aviator flight suit, and complete with many accessories including interchangeable hands, one of them giving the thumbs up sign.
The event became notorious for the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner displayed on the aircraft carrier, and related speech, implying that major combat in Iraq was over – it wasn’t.
When the doll was launched later that same year, a Blue Box spokeswoman acknowledged that the company had received complaints, saying: ““We don’t condone or endorse the president, but he fit the criteria of our Elite Force collection...It would have to be somebody in uniform, a military hero of some kind, or depicting a military uniform.”
The toy intercom is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects and artwork acquired by the borough over the years, and now in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust. For further information, please contact Jennifer Dunne on Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org or (01723) 384510.