For Matt Broussard, who is opening the Houston Toy Museum with wife Sara at 321 West 19th Street in the Heights, his first favorite toy was a Robin action figure.
“It was made for the Michael Keaton Batman movie, even though there wasn’t a Robin in the movie,” Broussard said. “It was my pocket toy that I took everywhere. I still have the original which is pretty beat up and was lucky enough to find another in the original box. I always say I’m going to open it on my birthday, but I haven’t yet.”
Actually, the Broussards have accumulated a lot of toys. Heights residents for a number of years, the couple shopped in Retropolis, which used to occupy the same space where they’re opening the museum. They were also vendors there, selling vintage toys, comic books and records, at the resale shop.
“We’ve always loved that spot and that building and that street,” Broussard said. “It’s almost too big for retail at 5,000 square feet but almost perfect for a museum.”
The collecting bug really set in for Broussard about 10 years ago when he bought some comics at Half Price Books and started reminiscing.
“I remembered all the things I used to play with and all the toys I used to have,” he said. “I’d always kept a little bit of my old stuff at my parents' house and so I went and got it all and started going through it. Then I started going to antique stores and resale shops, finding old toys that I had. Next, I looked for all the things I didn’t have but wanted as a kid.”
Soon, the collection moved to the apartment above the Broussard’s garage.
“I filled it up and it became my thing that I’d do to blow off steam,” he said. “I’d go up there and organize, it felt good making order out of chaos.”
The genesis for the museum really started when Broussard invited people over to see his collection.
“It wasn’t boxed up,” he said. “I was able to share with friends and family who would come over and maybe they didn’t even know I collected toys but their reaction was always the same. It was pure joy.”
The Broussards hope that the happy memories that everyone has of their toys will be a byproduct of a museum visit. They have stuffed bears dating back to the 1800s, as well as Barbies, Fisher-Price, Playskool, and a host of other brands.
“We want to go over the entire toy history of what we know,” Broussard said. “The goal is for people to come to the museum and actually learn history, as well as enjoy their time. Toys have so many interesting stories.”
The couple also knows that you can’t have a toy museum and not let children touch the toys.
“It’s a little mean to not let them play,” Broussard said. “The whole point of toys is to encourage imagination. We want to cross generations, and have parents and grandparents and children all get something out of it.”
There will be glass exhibits as well as an open area for play. Exhibits will constantly change, by the time of year and with the holidays. Broussard said that they will be parsing out their collection for display so as not to overcrowd the museum or overwhelm visitors. They also hope to connect with the art scene in Houston to highlight how toys have inspired them.
“We don’t want it to feel stagnant,” Broussard said. “We want people to always see something new, and learn something new.”
Broussard said that they are still working out the pricing for the museum and are hoping to open by the end of summer. They have also started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the museum.
“Since we want to be part of the community, it only feels right to let the community be part of the museum by getting rewards,” Broussard said. “It is important for us to be a community cornerstone. I hope that one day we’re really respected as a museum and in the toy community and that we’re respected in the Heights.”
In the meantime, the couple is working with builders and photographers to curate the exhibits.
“Talking to people about the love of their toys and their experiences growing up is changing my thoughts on how to curate it,” Broussard said, “That’s part of the joy of wanting to do this. I love talking to people and what’s better than talking to people about their happiest moments? Toys had a really big impact on a lot of people.”
For more information, visit houstontoymuseum.com.