Packed into a three-story flat in Mexico City’s Colonia Doctores is a history lesson waiting to be taught. Only two blocks from the Obrera Metro station, directly off the Eje Central, sits one of the world’s largest collections of toys and Mexican pop culture around. The items were collected by one individual, who to this day, insists that his 40,000 plus exhibit contains more than an assemblage of items, and if inspected carefully, details an account of Mexican history through playful objects.
Trained architect, Roberto Shimizu, opened the MUJAM (Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexico) in 2006 in hopes of helping Mexicans and people in general, reconnect with a past that’s quickly disappearing in the age of the digital culture. In 1955, at the age of ten, Mr. Shimizu began collecting toys and never looked back. Later on, he would travel to Europe, Japan, and all over Mexico to acquire a variety of items, mostly used toys which were produced by anonymous artists. “Most of these toys depict what daily life was like for a lot of people and the fact that they’ve been played with means they carry those ‘good vibes’ of the children”, shares Mr. Shimizu.
Spread over three levels in the flat his father built, the MUJAM showcases only 5% of the collector’s entire million-plus pieces. Items are organically arranged throughout four wings or ‘salas’ and displayed in recycled products which Mr. Shimizu himself, restored and repurposed. In the first wing, you’ll encounter globes, lunch boxes, a vintage jukebox with toys from the era displayed inside it, and you’ll also find toy cars from the Japanese toymaker “Tomica”. Sala two is usually reserved for traveling exhibits and recently had an extensive private collection of Barbies as well as a colorful and nostalgic array of “Cantinflas” memorabilia. The last two wings, three and four, display several Mexican toys as well as wooden toy guns, drums, oversized metal cars, and locomotives.
With such an array of toys, there’s ample opportunity for everyone to discover and connect with something. And, as Mr. Shimizu was quoted recently in a BBC Mundo interview, the contents of the MUJAM represent “keys to unlocking forgotten archives full of magical and fun moments.”
One might ask if in the midst of this digital age we live in this type of museum would resonate with the youth of today. Mr. Shimizu assures that the appeal is far more general than one would suspect. “A lot of these are one-of-a-kind items which were made in Mexico during a time when creative output was at its height. Adults who stroll through definitely connect with a bygone era, but, surprisingly, even high school kids seem to be drawn in, and for that, I’m happy to share this collection.”
Whatever the feelings you might possess about the MUJAM’s relevance in today’s world, one thing clearly becomes evident, a tip of the hat is in order for Mr. Shimizu who maintains that the window into a slice of history has drawn in general interest, and for that, must remain open.
Mexicounmasked.com would like to thank the entire staff for the hospitable welcome during a recent visit.
Dr. Olvera #15, Colonia Doctores
Mexico City, D.F. 06720
Entrance Fee: 50.00 Mxn.
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9-6PM
Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Documentary Video – “A Mexican Toy Story” – by Alba Mora Roca