The McCord Museum has 230+ toys in its permanent collection, and the annual exhibition of the collection has become a favourite family event. For the 6th annual exhibition of toys, Project Manager Catherine K. Laflamme, Curator Ghislaine Lemay and CEO Suzanne Sauvage have partnered with children’s book publisher Les 400 coups to produce an old-time circus under The Big Top; Le Cirque de Monsieur Lapin/Mr. Rabbit’s Circus.

At the threshold of the exhibition, my imagination rekindled memories of visiting Ringling Brothers circus, with the carnival-like displays leading along the funfair to the big top. Characters from very popular Monsieur Lapin children’s books published by Les 400 coups have been included in the circus. Children and their parents have a chance to solve the mystery of finding the missing items as they progress through the exhibition.

Curator Lemay and her staff have created an imaginative way of displaying the McCord’s toy collection, with detailed explanations of each item’s history. While parents are reading the inscriptions, there is an abundance of visual stimulation for the children as they continue their hunt for the missing items and the clues to be found under the big top.

The backstage area contains more toys, including a ‘toy’ working iron and mini-washing machine that would definitely not pass current CSA standards. The backstage area also includes 1910 photos of circus elephants from the permanent William Notman collection. It’s an ingenious and entertaining way of presenting the museum’s artefacts.

Some of the toys include a statue of Quebec strongman Louis Cyr, The Humpty Dumpty Circus (the Schoenhut toy company’s greatest success in 1920); a working Singer toy sewing machine that became so popular that adults travelled with it to make emergency clothing repairs; a flea circus with accompanying historical film and Les Voltigeurs, a remarkable 1908 toy that worked simply by gravity.

Mr. Rabbit’s Circus opened on November 1 and will continue to April 17, 2016. It’s a wonderful family activity during the Christmas Holidays and school break.

The McCord Museum is located at 690 Sherbrooke St West, Montreal, H3A 1E9. For information please call: 514-398-7100 or visit the re-designed web site:

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