As part of my MA – Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester, I have recently completed a work placement at The Atkinson in Southport, Merseyside. This is where I became involved with the exhibition of my dreams…
May the Toys be With You is a touring Star Wars themed exhibition shown from November 2016 to March 2017 at The Atkinson. It celebrated vintage Star Wars toys and film posters. I worked on various projects that ran alongside the exhibition including public engagement (producing a family trail), writing content for social media (using my own photos of the collection) in addition to gathering feedback from visitors for evaluation (designing a short survey and interviewing visitors in the gallery) and conducting research to support all of these work streams.
The vast collection on display was owned by one man, collector and fan Matt Fox. I also collected the figures and was obsessed with them as a child, so this exhibition was ideally suited to me! Matt’s collection features numerous rare vintage toys, primarily vehicles and figures with other strange items of Star Wars memorabilia spanning 1977 to 1985. I spoke with Matt on opening day and he explained that collecting is ‘like a disease’ whilst ‘sharing it is the cure’. One piece that had the ‘wow!’ factor was an original hand painted poster, this was not part of Matt’s collection but loaned by the artist Tom Beauvais. I particularly admired this piece as it was really detailed and because of the fact that it the only poster in existence to show Luke Skywalker in his Stormtrooper disguise! It wasn’t clear from the label that it was an original painting so I would point this out to visitors and show them the paint going over the border’s edges.
In the foyer of The Atkinson was a fan-made scale model of an X-Wing fighter prop (half size) aimed to draw in visitors. Here you could take a seat in the cockpit, wear a space helmet and of course, pose for a photo. You certainly don’t get to do that every day!
This exhibition can now be seen in Paisley, Renfrewshire (Scotland) followed by Torquay, Devon from 17th June.