STILL RELEVANT 50 YEARS ON: Play School first aired on television in July 1966, and 52 years later, the iconic children’s program is still going strong. An exhibition from the National Museum of Australia, celebrating the show’s 50 years, is currently on display at the Mildura Arts Centre. Pictured is Midura Arts Centre’s Jinae Connell and Object Conservationist for The National Museum Australia, Natalie Ison. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By JOHN DOOLEY
LOVERS of long-running children’s show Play School, both young and old, are in for a treat when they visit the National Museum of Australia’s ‘Happy Birthday Play School-Celebrating 50 years’ travelling exhibition.
Currently on display at the Mildura Arts Centre until Sunday, July 22, the display is a maze of colour and entertainment, which captures a kaleidoscope of memories from the original black and white television shows through to iPads displaying online downloads from today’s Play School offerings.
National Museum of Australia Travelling Exhibitions Officer, Catherine Czerw, said she was delighted to bring Play School to Mildura – the fifth venue on an itinerary of seven that the exhibition has visited since it began touring in early 2017.
“Mildura is the only Victorian venue, and so it’s a bit of a coup for the city, and we’re very thrilled that it’s offering locals and visitors a chance to see it,” Ms Czerw said.
The original exhibition opened at the National Museum in Canberra in 2016, which celebrated 50 years of Play School as an ABC television production.
“The exhibition was so successful that a decision to travel the show was made, something all those involved with its production were delighted about,” Ms Czerw said. “It involved a lot of work to transform it into a exhibit that could be toured and moved from one location to another.”
Ms Czerw said that the exhibit contained objects that belonged to the Museum’s collection and the ABC, and some components were also sourced from private lenders.
“There’s a lot of co-operation that has gone into the development of the exhibition and our curators have worked extremely hard to honour and preserve the ethos – the characteristic spirit of Play School,” she said.
“The essence of the exhibition aims to tease out some of the things they thought were the keys to its success and longevity, because it’s the longest-running children’s program on Australian television, indeed one of the world’s.”
PLAY School first aired on July 18, 1966, and with television coming to Mildura in 1965, many locals will remember watching the early black and white programs as young children.
Since its initial broadcast, Play School has been entertaining Australian preschoolers, providing them with new experiences and learning opportunities through music, crafts, stories, games, ideas and information.
Today, the aim of the series is still engrained in its production, which encourages children to wonder, think, feel and imagine, and importantly, it also strives to reflect a modern, diverse Australian society.
“I think there are several things that have contributed to Play School’s success. It’s definitely intergenerational and we established that almost every Australian who was a child in this country – a parent or grandparent – have memories of the show at different stages of their life,” Ms Czerw said.
“We are trying to present an exhibition that will not only be enjoyable for the little ones, who will be familiar with the show as it is today, including the social media presence and all the associated new technology which now goes hand-in-hand with Play School, but also provide something for the generations past who remember it right back to its beginning and everything in between.
“So whether it be your favourite toys or presenter, songs, the different activities, we have all of the stars including Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty and Jemima and the original rocket and flower clocks, and the original Play School windows and even B1 and B2 make an appearance.”
People attending the exhibition will be able to use the interactive TV screens, of which there are four, to look at clips of shows dating back to the early-day black and white programs, right through to today’s widescreen, high definition colour transmissions.
TOUCH-SCREENS present with a page of coloured balloon images, which when touched take the user to a variety of content.
“The different decades of Play School – five decades of the show are available to view and show a variety of nostalgic footage, right up to current day,” Ms Czerw said. “When we were in Rockhampton with the show, a little girl came up to the lady at the front desk and said, ‘Excuse me, one of your televisions is broken, the picture is in black and white’ – a sign of the times!”