In an unassuming red barn in Litchfield, Connecticut, you'll find the Space Age Museum, with a collection of mid-20th-century toys and artifacts that celebrate the exploration of space and the bright future envisioned at the time. There are aliens, robots, rockets, spaceships, and lots of photographs that you'll only see online, as the museum is not open to the public. It's a family affair, the work of John Kleeman and his son Peter. The collection began as a project the two could enjoy together.
One of the key aspects of many of the sci-fi artifacts they’ve collected is their interactivity. “You could send away for Tom Corbett space goggles, or space helmets. You could participate with some of the shows, like Captain Video with decoders,” says Peter. For John and Peter, it’s this element of participation that turns the objects they collect into symbols of changing attitudes about space exploration. By picking up the ray gun of someone like Buck Rogers, kids were able to engage with the (then) ephemeral dream of the Space Age. “A lot of people talk about the Space Age beginning on October 4, 1957, when Sputnik was launched,” says Peter. “But we see the space age vision in popular culture growing for several decades before that. Where we really see it come into pop culture in more of a visual form is with the comic strips and toys of Buck Rogers in the late ’20s and early ’30s.”
Read more about the Space Age Museum, and get a peek inside, at Atlas Obscura.
(Image credit: Samir S. Patel)