The Galt Museum & Archives developed a fun exhibition called Toys & Games ~ engage, entertain, educate which opened on October 1, 2011 and will run until January 8, 2012. We decided to invite visitors to vote for their favourite toy once they reached the gallery exit. The Galt’s Exhibit Designer and Fabricator created an imaginative voting station and each visitor was given a single marble when they arrived in the museum which they could use to vote.
The voting station included nine ‘ballot boxes’ each with a number that corresponded to one of the display cases in the exhibit. Each ‘box’ was unique and involved holes through which a marble was dropped. Putting the marble into a variety of tubes and steps and even a stainless steel bowl with a hole in the bottom were part of the fun. The marbles were to be counted each week and posted to the Galt’s website so people could follow the voting.
What we quickly discovered was that our visitors were so delighted with the voting methods that the station itself became a toy. This created a whole series of unexpected challenges. Firstly, we found the station was subjected to some pretty rough handling – as toys do – and this required several repairs. Secondly, we discovered that no matter how we secured the catch basins for each station, some were constantly being raided by small hands. The marbles taken from those boxes were used over and over again. Thirdly, we found that visitors were often choosing to put their marble into the ballet box that appealed to them rather than the one reflected the display case which held their favourite toy. And lastly, visitors were also dropping other small objects into the stations like dice, tiddlywinks, dominoes and even pick-up sticks.
So, the voting became secondary to play and with so many people having such fun with the marbles and the clever stations, we have decided to treat it as a toy and abandon the voting. After all, the exhibit is all about toys and games.