Collections and Research

Rattle, 1867-1900. Gift of Ms. T. Palmer Howard © McCord Museum, M2005.127.17

Every Object Has Its History, Every Object Tells a Tale

For the past nine years, the Museum has been presenting an annual exhibition of toys drawn from its Decorative Arts collection. The selection process, undertaken by a team composed of conservator, project manager and curator, takes account of various factors, including physical condition, applicability to the exhibition concept, and accompanying documentation. It gives the curator an opportunity to delve into the McCord’s innumerable storage units in search of items of particular relevance – with often surprising results.

While looking for objects to include in the exhibition Treasures in the Attic, our team came across this baby’s rattle, a singularly beautiful item made of silver. Designed as a nineteenth-century christening gift, it has a whistle at one end and a piece of red coral at the other. It would have hung around the infant’s neck by a ribbon attached to the ring, and the coral served as a teething device, to relieve sore gums. Both the coral and the bells were supposed to protect the child against evil spirits and sickness, while at the same time encouraging sensory development (taste, touch, sight and hearing). It is a luxury object, evidently once owned by an affluent family.

All the toys on view – whether chosen for their unusual form, like this rattle, or because they are charming, funny, rare, famous, or simply a reflection of everyday life – are guaranteed to spark a host of memories and emotions among visitors: they’re tangible symbols of childhood!

Guislaine Lemay, Decembre 2018


Not to be missed!