Play School exhibition arrives in Tamworth

FINE-TOOTH COMB: National Museum of Australian objects conservator Natalie Ison checks every pom pom and button on this crafty birthday cake that's part of the exhibition.

FINE-TOOTH COMB: National Museum of Australian objects conservator Natalie Ison checks every pom pom and button on this crafty birthday cake that's part of the exhibition.

SOME of the most precious items in Australian TV history have arrived for an exhibition in Tamworth.

More than 190 objects used during the 50 years of Play School are being unpacked, checked and displayed at Tamworth Regional Gallery ahead of Happy Birthday Play School, which opens tomorrow.

That’s along with about 195 pieces of furniture used to display and protect the toys, sets and props.

The exhibition features the original arched, round and square windows, as well as early versions of the Teds, Humpty and Jemima.

Gallery director Bridget Guthrie said she thought the exhibition would bring up great nostalgia for those old enough to remember these original sets and enduring toys.

“You can even see Little Ted is balding in some spots, so the authenticity is very apparent,” she said.

When The Leader had a sneak preview yesterday, National Museum of Australia workers were carefully unpacking, examining, photographing and documenting every item – down to the last pom pom – noting its condition and arranging it in the displays.

Conservator Natalie Ison said she and her colleagues “definitely” felt a big sense of responsibility to the iconic items.

“We’re very meticulous when we check, so if you see a little scratch anywhere, we’ve already noted it,” she said.

HELLO THERE: Humpty, Big Ted, Little Ted and Jemima make up the centrepiece of the exhibition.

HELLO THERE: Humpty, Big Ted, Little Ted and Jemima make up the centrepiece of the exhibition.

“It’s challenging, but you get to know them really well.”

The exhibition arrived in two large road trains and was “like a circus coming to town”, the accompanying travelling exhibitions officer, Natalie Czerw, said.

It has travelled from the National Museum of Australia, which developed it with the ABC.

The items on show come from the museum collection, private loans and the ABC’s props department.

Ms Czerw said Tamworth was the “midway venue” for Happy Birthday Play School, which by the end will have been in just two galleries in NSW and seven in Australia.

“The 50th anniversary was actually in 2016, but this is like an after-party that’s never going to give up,” Ms Czerw said.

“I look after all the travelling exhibitions, but Play School is by far the most in-demand.

“If it was based on demand alone, it would be going for quite a while.”

Ms Guthrie said the tour to Tamworth was supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, and touring funding support from the National Museum of Australia.

Packed program

Gallery education officer Kate Armstrong said the exhibition program featured almost 30 items including craft activities, toddler story time and an adults’ up-late session.

Ms Armstrong said some particularly important inclusions were the sensory sessions.

“They’re really for anyone who may have specific sensory preferences and be a little bit put off by a general experience of a gallery, or worried about how they would feel in the space,” she said.

Ms Armstrong said she’d consulted with people such as special education teachers and therapists such as speech pathologists on the measures the gallery could take.

This could include dimming the lights and sound, or having no large groups, but she said she would consult with interested people on their needs.

“There’s been a real range of people that are expressing and interest in this exhibition,” she said.

“The overarching mission statement of the gallery is that we believe that the arts and culture are for everyone.

“Regardless of your age, gender, abilities, we really think that everyone should have access to the arts, so we’re always looking for new ways to break down barriers to access.”

Plan your Happy Birthday Play School: Celebrating 50 Years experience and book at Eventbrite:

  • Exhibition opening, Saturday, February 10, 2pm: Tamworth Regional Council and Tamworth Regional Gallery invite you to the exhibition opening of Happy Birthday Play School: Celebrating 50 Years with Special guest Philip Quast. Join Philip as he officially launches the exhibition and leads a sing along. This is a free event.
  • Family Funday Sunday guided ‘let’s make’ activity, Sunday, February 11 and Sunday, March 11. Session 1: 11am-12pm, session 2:  2pm-3pm: This ‘Drop in and Make’ activity encourages families to visit the exhibition together and create their own Rocket Clocks and Rabbit Dress Ups. This is a free event.
  • Sensory sessions, Monday, February 12 and Monday, March 12, 11.30am: This morning is planned specially for children and young people with specific sensory preferences to enjoy this exhibition in a calm, safe and quiet environment. Helena and Kate will be available to conduct tours in these sessions, or you are welcome to wander through the exhibition at your leisure, stay for as long or as little as you like. The Gallery will open especially for participants on this day.
  • Toddler Time in the Gallery, Wednesday, February 14 and Wednesday, March 14, 11am: Storytime sessions are a fun way to help prepare your child for reading once at school. Storytime offers singing, reading, and age related craft experiences for preschool aged children. Free, but bookings essential.
  • Story Time in the Gallery, Friday, February 16 and Friday, March 16, 11am: Toddler Time is a brief introduction to the library offering a sharing experience that can be carried over into the home setting. Typical sessions include interactive stories, finger plays, song, dance rhyme and more! Free, but bookings essential.
  • Happy Birthday Play School with The Conservatorium of Music! Tuesday, March 27, 12.30pm: Guest presenter Brookie Gillette from Tamworth Regional Conservatorium of Music will be conducting special Play School music sessions for children and their families in the Gallery spaces. Join us for this play-based Play School music experience! For children ages 3-6 years and their families.
  • Creative Zone: a creative extravaganza of art and music! Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29, 11am, noon, 1pm,  2pm: Preschools are invited to attend a 40-minute session at the Gallery on this special day to enjoy child-centred tour of the Happy Birthday Play School Exhibition, hear a Play School story, join in to a Play Schoolsing along, and take part in a Make and Do activity. $5 per child, carers free of charge. For more information contact the Gallery on 6767 5227.
  • Play School Up Late (18+), Wednesday, March 28, 6pm: Join us in the exhibition spaces as we stay up late with Play School. Take a step back into the childhood parties of days gone by as we celebrate all things Play School. With a fun and social spin on the traditional visit to the Gallery, a bar will be opening and special Play School themed games for grown ups will see us all vying for the title of Play School quiz champion! Bring along a party of friends, $20/head includes a drink on arrival and finger food.
  • Teddy Bears Picnic – part of the Taste Tamworth Festival, Sunday, April 8, session for 5-7 year olds, 11.30am: Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic! Bring your teddy bear friend to share this fun cooking and making workshop. Activities will include cooking teddy bear themed treats, and creating your very own teddy bear cook book. $20 per child includes all ingredients, art materials and a pack to take home on the day!
  • Teddy Bears Picnic – part of the Taste Tamworth Festival, Sunday, April 8, session for 8-12 year olds, 2.30pm: Bring your teddy bear friend and use them as inspiration to create a detailed portrait during this cooking and drawing class. Activities will include cooking baked goods to take home on the day, and creating your very own teddy bear portrait. $30 per child includes all ingredients, art materials and a pack to take home on the day!
  • Exhibition-based activities (ongoing in the gallery space), February 10 to April 15, during gallery opening hours: Drop in and Make’ Zone: Weekly themed colouring in table, with a different character from Play School. Free of charge, no bookings required.

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