Whether you are a child or an adult, the Library has often been a place of wonderment and fun. For some, that can mean learning to play chess with a friend, building a swashbuckling pirate ship out of Lego, or simply, grabbing a random book off the shelf and finding a quiet corner of the library to immerse yourself. The Library is a safe space to do all of these things and more. 

To coincide with the launch of State Library Victoria’s ‘Summer Blockbuster at the Library’ a small team of Library staff have been busily putting together a small display of collection material, designed to encapsulate all forms of children’s play at the Library. Literacy and learning come in many forms, and this exhibition is designed to capture this diversity by showcasing the depth and breadth of the Library collections. Together they demonstrate a history of learning and pedagogy through play and the vital role that State Library Victoria takes in supporting this. 

Here are a few of the curator’s highlights:

For the love of chess

State Library Victoria is famous for its love of chess. From the public forecourt chess sets to the quieter Ian Potter Queen’s Hall mezzanine, engaging in a game of chess with a friend or stranger is a rite of passage for many library lovers. With over 13,000 books, magazines and reports, the M.V. Anderson Chess Collection is one of the largest of its kind in the world. 

Thomas Patterson’s chess set, [1880-1900], PCLTRE 425

Moveable and Pop-Up Books

Pop-up and moveable books are a fun and interactive way to read. They come in many forms and appeal to adults and children alike. State Library Victoria’s large collection of children’s literature boasts more than 100,000 children’s books from Australia and overseas. One of these, includes Robert Sabuda’s wonderful pop-up book, Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, 2003.

Book Conservator, Helen McPherson preparing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for display. RAREJ 823.89 D66ASA

Get your skates on!

Learning is not just all about books. Physical education teaches us about teamwork, problem solving, leadership, and resilience. The roller skates on display once belonged to Miss Hilda Beyer. Hilda and her sister, Ruby, became professional skaters following in the footsteps of their father, Francis.

Colonel Winslow roller skates, (ca. 1908), PCLTRE ; 144

Watch Senior Librarian, Bridie Flynn talk about the wave of roller-mania in 19th-century Victoria:


Games for young and all

Although games might not seem like an obvious inclusion into State Library Victoria collections, they play a very important role in the development of young minds. Board and card games for example, are a useful tool for teaching children concepts such as morality, financial literacy, and literacy. Early boardgames like Young Folks Historical Game (ca. 1883?) are a wonderful example of design and chromolithograph printing.

One of the many board games on display. Young folks historical game, (ca.1883?). RAREJ 794 Y841 (1883)

The “Children & Play” exhibition will be on display over Summer and can be found in the newly developed Ian Potter Queen’s Hall.

* Permission granted from Robert Sabuda to use images from Alice’s adventures in Wonderland.

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