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Meccano: Twentieth Century Toys

2 June - 28 October 2001

Please note that this exhibition has now closed

One hundred years after they were first introduced, Meccano, Dinky and Hornby toys still feature in shops and hobby fairs worldwide. Their longevity was celebrated in the two-part exhibition Meccano: Twentieth Century Toys, held at the former Museum of Liverpool Life and Merseyside Maritime Museum in 2001.

The exhibition explored the life and ideas of Meccano's inventor Frank Hornby and took a look at collectors' passions for models and toys.

Museum of Liverpool Life

At the Museum of Liverpool Life the exhibition surveyed the inspiration and creativity of the early factory, taking a look at work in the tool room, model room, paint shop and offices.

It also explored the outings, sports teams, Meccano Guild and annual Miss Meccano pageant making up the social life of workers.

An appeal for former Meccano workers to come forward was launched in November 2000 and the response was tremendous. Curator Sharon Brown explains:

"We had an incredible response to our appeal for former workers to come and tell us about their experiences of Meccano. Meccano has touched so many people's lives - there was clearly a strong bond between workers."

Displays focused on factory and social lives illustrated by letters, trophies, toy moulds, Dinky Toys and Meccano.

The display revealed how the mainly-female assembly-line workers found that their social, romantic and working lives revolved around the factory. It also explored the end of an era, the decline in fortunes and the sudden closure of the Binns Road factory in Liverpool.

Merseyside Maritime Museum

The display at Merseyside Maritime Museum focused on Meccano kits and Hornby and Dinky models.

The phenomena of Meccano Magazine, the Meccano Guild, Dinky Collectors Club and Hornby Railway Company are all explored. The exhibition showed how Frank Hornby changed the world of play for children in the 20th century.

The exhibition also looked at how Meccano kits were used by engineers and how Bayko featured in Liverpool University architectural competitions.

Exhibits included a host of big Meccano models of the Titanic, a bridge and windmill as well as Dinky Toys, Hornby models and Bayko kits.