Exhibits in Special Collections

“Most Agreeable & Rational Recreation”: Two Centuries of Educational Games

976 Memorial Library, 728 State Street, Madison, WI 53706

January 23, 2024 – October 4, 2024

cover of Grandmama's Arithmetical Game
Grandmama’s Improved Arithmetical Game (McLoughlin Brothers).

Long before gaming captured academic attention, there were plenty of educational games, exploiting technologies of print and cardboard rather than digital media, designed for use in classrooms or by families with a degree of leisure and income. Such games continue to merit attention as expressions of attitudes toward nature, power, class, gender, and empire as well as learning and play. This exhibit, curated by Robin Rider from the holdings of Special Collections, features (more or less) educational games across multiple languages, diverse subjects, and nearly two centuries, beginning in the late 18th century. They invite speculation about the nature of games, as well as who might have designed and produced them.

The exhibit, located on the 9th floor of Memorial Library, is free and open to the public. The Department of Special Collections is open Monday-Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM. A facsimile of Round the world with Nellie Bly: A novel and fascinating game with plenty of excitement on land and sea (1890) is set out and ready to play in the exhibit gallery. Other original games and modern versions are ready to play in the Special Collections reading room. Contact askspecial@library.wisc.edu to inquire about bringing a class or arranging a guided group session.

A checklist of items on exhibit is available.