Skip to main content


Play: An Exploration of Toys, Games & Fun

A major free exhibition that will appeal to children and adults of all ages is being staged in Coventry this summer, exploring the history of toys, games and fun from across the country.

Entitled Play, the exhibition is being held at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum from June 30 until September 23 and will feature a host of nostalgic and contemporary objects – from Lego to loom bands, and from early Monopoly to Meccano.

Toys, games and costumes dating from Roman times right up to the present day will be on show and have been chosen to cover a broad range of play based on the curators’ research.

Another exhibition will run alongside Play that focuses on local games company Rare – the first major exhibition based on a video game developer. Rare has been at the forefront of gaming for more than 30 years, developing iconic games such as GoldenEye, Donkey Kong Country and the company’s latest release, Sea of Thieves.

The Rare exhibition celebrates three decades of creating games that players love to keep playing and explores how games are made today.

Overall, more than 200 objects will be on show at these joint exhibitions for the duration of the run.

The museum is hosting a special Herbert Late celebrating the launch of Play & Rare - The city’s own post-digital play gurus Ludic Rooms will curate a host of activities. Plus big games for lots of people, board games to delight your inner geek, pervasive games for the downright silly – all with street food, and a bar.

Frankie Ranford, Cultural and Creative Director of Culture Coventry, believes they will attract a cross-section of people from Coventry, Warwickshire and beyond.

Frankie said: “The importance of play – from toys and games to outdoor activity and creativity – should not be underestimated. The way we play as children has a huge influence on who we become as adults.

“We always aim to make our exhibitions accessible and relatable to everyone and Play is certainly something that everyone can connect with.

“The exhibition features some wonderful exhibits. Some date back 2000 years while we have some that have been very popular only recently, such as fidget spinners and slime!

“Some of the toys are iconic and will really draw out the nostalgia in adults and capture the imagination of children. From Action Man to Barbie and from Star Wars figures through to the Fisher Price Chatter Phone, it really does have something for everyone.

“Play follows on from two very popular summer exhibitions – Brick Wonders and Children’s TV – both of which were family-friendly with a broad appeal. We believe this exhibition will do the same and comes at the perfect time as we head towards the school holidays.”

The Play and Rare exhibitions are kindly supported by Rare and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Frankie added: “Rare is a major company locally and one of the largest and longest-running video games businesses in the UK. Now is the perfect time for this exhibition as in 2015 Rare celebrated its heritage through the release of the Rare Replay anniversary collection and very recently released its most ambitious undertaking to date, Sea of Thieves.

“Working with Rare has also enabled us to include another digital element within the exhibition as video games are now a huge part of the way many people choose to play.”

Craig Duncan, Studio Head at Rare Ltd, added: “It’s such an honour for Rare to be showcased at The Herbert with the exhibition ‘8-bit to Xbox One’.

“As a Midlands-based studio with such a storied history steeped in over 30 years of gaming heritage, I’m very proud we can bring this story to life in a physical form, for both people in the Midlands as well as travelling Rare fans.

“The excitement to partner on this exhibition was clear from our very first meeting with the passionate team at The Herbert and I’m excited for everyone to learn more about Rare and gaming through this partnership.”

To potentially feature in the exhibition, you can donate photos of your own toys to the Virtual Museum by using #playattheherbert on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

For more information on Play and Rare, go to