10,000 Toy Soldiers March On English Town

toy soldiers
A new museum dedicated to toy soldiers has opened in Silloth in northern England. Soldiers in Silloth opens today and houses the massive collection of local enthusiast Tim Barker.

Barker’s personal army, which numbers some 10,000 diminutive warriors, includes early lead examples and the more modern green plastic guys. The centerpiece is a large diorama (battle scene) of Waterloo. There are other dioramas of the Old West and Hadrian’s Wall, which terminates not far from Silloth. Check out their online gallery to see more.

While the museum is now open, the organization is calling for funds and volunteers. It’s strange to think a type of toy that was ubiquitous when I was a kid back in the ’70s now requires a museum. Most kids don’t seem to play with toy soldiers anymore. Many modeling companies have gone out of business or have stopped mass production and are now catering to collectors and war gamers. The owner of one toyshop where I get models for my kid says he hardly ever sells model soldiers to children anymore.

It appears that toy soldiers are increasingly becoming museum pieces. There are large collections at the Army Museum in London, the War Museum in Paris and the Tin Soldier Museum in Valencia.

Silloth is a major tourist destination in northwestern England. There’s some beautiful coastline and countryside nearby, plenty of fishing and camping opportunities and several annual events, including the popular and family-friendly Solway Music Festival (Solfest).

[Photo courtesy J.C. Butler.]

Crowds flocking to Navy SEAL Museum

Navy SEAL
While Navy SEALs normally work in the shadows, they came into the international limelight on May 2 when they killed Osama bin Laden.

Now the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum has seen its daily attendance triple. The museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, documents the history of the SEALs from their humble beginnings in 1943 as the Naval Combat Demolition Teams and Underwater Demolition Teams to the cutting-edge special ops force it is today.

Yet what will surely go down in history as one of the SEAL’s greatest hits isn’t covered by the museum yet. It’s too recent. That will soon change if the museum raises $1.5 million to set up permanent exhibits in its new wing.

On memorial Day about 2,000 people attended services at the museum, and the SEAL team that killed bin Laden got special attention.

“The signal was sent that you cannot attack the U.S. and murder innocent women and children with impunity, that we will find you and get you and win this war,” said Admiral Thomas L. Brown II.

[Photo of SEALs in Afghanistan courtesy U.S. Navy]

American Civil War anniversary remembered. . .in Dublin

Civil War, Irish Brigade, American Civil War
As the United States begins a series of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, this momentous conflict is even being marked beyond the nation’s borders.

This weekend the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin is having a series of events to mark the contribution of Irish immigrants on both sides of the Civil War. While most Irish immigrants went to the industrial North and thus ended up in the Union army, there were a significant number of Irish Confederates as well. Also, the famous New York City draft riots were mostly instigated by poor Irish immigrants who objected to the fact that rich people could buy their way out of the draft.

Unless you’re in Dublin at the moment you’ll miss the lectures and free live music, but if you’re going to Dublin check out the museum’s permanent Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition at Collins Barracks, which outlines Irish military history including the Irish people’s part in the American Civil War.

[Image of Lt. Col. James J. Smith and officers of 69th New York Infantry (Irish Brigade) courtesy Library of Congress]

Photo of the Day – Chairman Mao Portrait

History is all around us, particularly in a country like China. Whether you’re walking along the magnificent Great Wall or gazing in awe at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user Trent Strohm, offers us yet another unique glimpse of China’s remarkable history: Chairman Mao, leader of the Chinese Revolution. Trent’s inclusion of the soldier in front of Mao’s portrait adds an interesting visual story to the photograph. It seems to be telling us the ghosts of China’s past are ever-present, asserting their watchful gaze over the present day.

Have any great photos from your own travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Now Open: the Pentagon’s super secret art collection


Did you know the Pentagon collects art? The United States military began taking an interest back in 1840 and today, the total collection counts more than 15,000 pieces produced by some 1,300 actual American soldiers. Most of these artists are self-taught, enlisted military personnel and depict the sights and scenes of life in the armed forces–often at war and often in other countries.

I got a sneak preview of the exhibit a while back and was amazed by the talent and emotion depicted in the collection. From Vietnam to the Gulf War to Iraq and Afghanistan–these paintings explore an insider’s view of war, sometimes tender and sometimes horrific yet utterly lacking in propaganda or modern media. One artist even painted on canvas torn from combat tents because that’s what was available in Iraq.

Interested travelers can get a taste of our nation’s long-hidden art reserve in Philadelphia, where 300 pieces have been chosen for a special exhibit, Art of the American Soldier at National Constitution Center. The show opens today, September 24, 2010 and runs until January 10, 2011, after which it will begin a national tour.

(Attack at Twilight; Roger Blum, Vietnam 1966)