Inglewood is a town about 20 minutes out of New Plymouth, and contains the Fun Ho! Toy Museum. I was keen to visit as I'd been reading about the company in the book Hello girls and boys!: A New Zealand toy story, which I picked up on a previous trip to New Zealand. I was particularly interested in visiting to see if I could find more out about their links with Jomax, who made one of the dolls' houses on my wish list.
When I was planning our road trip I mentioned to The Parental Units that I'd like to pop in to the museum for a quick visit while we were in the area, to which I got an unexpectedly enthusiastic response. Because, of course, these were the toys of their childhoods. So with a big tick from everyone involved, a visit was locked in to the itinerary.The museum is situated on the main street, and contains a large room displaying shelves and shelves of items made by the company over the years,
plus a slot car setup
and an old Bedford van in the middle, containing a model railroad set up.
(Now there's an unusual container for minis!)
On top of the display cases are a range of the moulds used to make the original toys
and in the 'Fun Ho! Foundry' room next door, displays of lead toys and the moulds to make them
(because making toys out of lead is an excellent idea!).
In the same room is information on the process used to sandcast the toys
and finish them off.
Plus various other displays of the process
and tools involved.
But I was here for the dolls' house furniture, which made up just one display case in the main room:
On the top shelf were three metal model bungalows, and I hoped that they would be one of the items that were being re-cast for sale in the museum shop (alas, they weren't).
This is where my disappointment set in: as I found the labelling not very useful at all. The label behind this house read 'Kit set No 1 gabled house 1948',
but the next two houses on the shelf had no information at all.
Similarly, the boxed sets on display had labels like you see below
that didn't tell me much either.
Which got me wondering why. Was it perhaps a) the curator assumed that visitors were experienced collectors, so knew what they were looking at b) the museum was aimed at people (like my parents) who were visiting to look for items they had as children, rather than to learn about the items, or maybe c) the museum didn't have the knowledge or funding to provide this information?
I visited the front desk to see if there was a general book about the company which might give me more information, and found only a couple of collectors' guides (making me suspect that option a was correct).
I then asked the person behind the desk if she could tell me anything about the link between Jomax and Fun Ho! Toys. And got a blank look. It slowly dawned on me that, although there were a range of reconstructed Fun Ho! toys and other souvenirs for sale, perhaps this was the information centre for the town, and not for the museum: and the museum just happened to be located in the same building (option c seemed a likely reason).
I returned to taking photos of the items on display (Rebecca: I've labelled the photos in FLICKR with the information that was provided),wondering if anyone had done any in-depth research into the Fun Ho! dolls' house pieces at all, as they were fairly obviously an after-thought for the company...
I was also very aware that my recent experiences at Tawhiti Museum may have raised my expectations of what a provincial museum would be.
Did I enjoy my visit? Yes, although I didn't learn the things I was hoping to. Was it worth the cost of entry? Also yes, if I measure it in 'interesting things to look at' and 'time spent there'.
If you're interested, there are a few reconstructed dolls' house items for sale on their website, and someone has posted a walk-through video to You Tube...
(Actually, not really as I spent five hours creating this post and then it disappeared. So this is the second version in as many days...)