M.P. Baker Library to Exhibit Once Upon A Playground
Posted January 13, 2017 by Blake Holland |   

Exhibit PicThe classic metal and wood structures that have populated playgrounds for most of the twentieth century—towering metal slides, giant jungle gyms, whirling merry-go-rounds, bouncing seesaws—have become beloved artifacts of childhood. They are part of the personal histories of most Americans over the age of 30, as well as a tangible piece of the country’s cultural and industrial design heritage. In celebration of this heritage, Once Upon a Playground opens January 30, 2017 in the Allison Gallery of the M.P. Baker Library of Panola College.

Once Upon a Playground offers a visual tribute to these vanishing playgrounds of our past, celebrating their place in American culture and the collective memories of generations. Co-curated by Brenda Biondo, author of Once Upon a Playground: A Celebration of Classic American Playgrounds, 1920–1975 and Carol Johnson, recently retired curator of photography at the Library of Congress, the exhibition combines contemporary photographs of classic equipment, vintage images of playground scenes from the Library of Congress’ collections, and images from period playground catalogs and other ephemera. By bringing together these diverse sources, the exhibition highlights a playground vernacular that developed over decades, while providing historical context and cultural insight.

Playground equipment often reflected the popular culture of the times, as geometric metal and wood apparatus of the 1920s and 1930s gradually gave way to pieces in the shape of cowboys and Indians, storybook characters, rocket ships and satellites, motorcycles, and geodesic domes.

Unfortunately, as communities have renovated their parks and schoolyards, classic playground equipment has virtually disappeared from many parts of the country. Yet these icons of childhood still trigger fond memories for countless Americans and remain a ubiquitous product of America’s industrial design heyday.

Once Upon a Playground is organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO. This exhibit is free and open to the public. It will be on display until February 28, 2017. For additional information please call the library at 903-693-2052 or email Sherri Baker at sherri.baker@panola.edu.

Image Credit: Brenda Biondo, Miracle Lifetime Whirl, Hudson, CO, 2011; color