Clearing the ol' browser tabs:
The NY Times used a new Central Park playground as a slightly irrelevant hook for discussing a new book from Rutgers University Press, Designing Modern Childhoods: History, Space, and the Material Culture of Children. Apparently, whether it's a do-gooder charity, a government, or a money-grubbing corporation, kid-related design has usually been driven by the agenda of the sponsoring institution, not the kids' own objectives, uses or needs. Consider these two awesome examples, where enlightened leaders successfully solved The Problems with Women and those poor, dirty, immigrants:
Consider the campfire, a mainstay at summer camps across the United States. That ritual, borrowed from American Indians, was used to promote “muscular Christianity” at Y.M.C.A. camps in the 1890s, the scholar Abigail A. Van Slyck writes. It was highly endorsed by the pioneering psychologist G. Stanley Hall, who blamed women and girls for the “developmental derailment” of boys. With its rustic masculine atmosphere, summer camp would rescue boys from feminization.For Youngsters, Leaps and Boundaries [nyt]
America’s first playgrounds were very square and regimented, Ms. de Coninck-Smith notes, because their design emerged from the physical education movement of the 1930s, “when the bigger underlying project was to reform the city’s working class.”
Buy Designing Modern Childhoods: History, Space, and the Material Culture of Children in paperback for like $20 [amazon]
Meanwhile, on the wireless, Prof. Gary Cross explained to Kurt Andersen that "cute" is a modern invention. Whatever kids and pets were before the 20th century, it wasn't "cute." Give it a five-minute listen here or at Studio360's website [studio360 via dt reader sara]:
And finally, a follow-up of sorts, from the Happiest Place on Earth [note: offer not valid for Mary Blair]: Chiba University has returned over 250 original animation cels, drawings, paintings, and set ups, mostly from Sleeping Beauty, that Walt Disney personally selected for a 1960 Japanese exhibition of animation art and technique. Disney had originally donated them to the National Museum of Art in Tokyo, which handed them over to Chiba U, which stuffed them in a janitor's closet and forgot about them for 50 years. Oops. I expect to hear soon that Disney is reworking the old artwork to include cameos of newer, more marketable characters.