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On 10th March 2021 at 18:00, via Zoom.

Joint-Zoom Seminar with the Intellectual History Working Group

The Visual and Material History Working Group will have its next event on the 10th of March at 18:00. Organised jointly with the Intellectual History Working Group of the EUI, this special session of the “Talking about things” seminar series will explore the place of games and toys in history, through the cultural, social and political significance of these objects. We will also consider how toys can be preserved in museums and put at the disposition of historians. It will also be the occasion for us to see how historical research can be conveyed to a wider audience through museum exhibitions. Two presentations will be followed by questions and a discussion.


“Playing war games” – Daniel Bessner, Assistant Professor, Joff Hanauer Honors Professorship in Western Civilization, University of Washington.

The paper will explore how the experience of playing war games at RAND, the experience of seeing nuclear war represented on maps and on tables, shaped how generations of analysts and ordinary people understood the “game” of international relations.


“Barbie and her friends at the Museum” – Anne Monier, Conservatrice, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

It is not the title for a brand-new movie for kids, but an opportunity to think together about the place of toys in a museum, and about the meaning of a museum’s toys collection.

In Toy Story 2, Woody, a cowboy rag doll and the main protagonist, hesitates between letting a greedy collector sell him to a museum, thus avoiding the tragic destiny of toys given away by their former owner who outgrew them, or escaping in order to go back to the kid who loves him. This very popular movie raises a question crucial to museum curators: do toys belong to the museum? As a reflection of our society they deserve, of course, like any other artefact, to be studied and considered through the lens of our cultural and social history. But how can you, as a curator, explain to a child that the toy he sees in a display window is the same than the one he plays with at home, though not entirely? Working with the audience on this tough question, which can arise for any decorative arts exhibition or display, is already an interesting first step for the understanding of museums’ goals and missions.

We will together study the toys collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and its history within the museum, its evolution through the last exhibitions organized at the museum, and the next challenges linked to the current evolution of toys.


This session will take place via Zoom. If you wish to attend, please register by contacting Moïra Dato.