He was just five years old when he started his toy collection. Sixty-eight years later, Uncle Temo as Artemio Ábrego Treviño is known, has more than 6,000.
They come from 15 countries representing over 20 cultures and regions of the world — and the collection is still growing.
About 800 pieces from that collection now form the the first stage of the Museo Interactivo del Juguete, the Interactive Toy Museum, in San Pedro Garza García, Nuevo León. It was a 25-year-old dream which came to fruition with the opening of the museum in early December.
Ábrego spent many of those years approaching various people and institutions about the idea of opening a toy museum in the Monterrey area. While a number said it was a good idea, no one followed through to help him create it. That is until 2 1/2 years ago when a former general manager of chemical company Grupo AIEn, Alfonso García Hernández, became enthusiastic about the project and worked with Ábrego to make it happen.
The idea behind the museum is that “toys are the tools to enjoy life.” They allow children to imagine life beyond their current boundaries, seeing themselves as pilots, firefighters, scientists, artists, doctors and even superheroes.
The museum joins a growing list of toy museums in Mexico, including the Museo de Juguete Antiguo in Mexico City and the Museo La Esquina in San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato.
The museum has 850 square meters of exhibition space divided into six rooms on two floors. García states that that the museum is unique because it is organized by theme rather than by historical period. For example, the collection of Star Wars toys include those from the past and present, with those coming out in the future represented by news stories of the current and upcoming movies and shows. Toy vehicles are arranged similarly, grouped by cars, firetrucks, ambulances, etc.
The museum’s founders state that toys change over time along with the culture and the society they come from because of both demand and technology. For example, toy cars have been made with pull strings or to move “by themselves” via batteries or winding mechanisms. The robot collection includes those made over the past 50-60 years, allowing a visitor to compare those which are very simple to those which are quite sophisticated.
García believes that “toys will never go away. Systems and controls change, but the enjoyment is always there.”
The museum has a wide variety of toys from traditional handcrafted ones to modern, computerized ones. Some toys are one-of-a-kind. Ábrigo has collected toys on travels to Italy, Germany, the United States and China, but he has not forgotten traditional Mexican toys such as the wood top and ball-in-cup game.
The collection features commercial toy series such as Hot Wheels. One of the oldest pieces is a “magic lantern” from the end of the 19th century. The newest is a robot with “artificial intelligence” which Ábrego recently purchased.
The collection also includes toys featured on television shows and movies. One toy belonged to famed Mexican children’s television host Chabelo. The collection also includes a Turbo Man, the toy featured in the movie Jingle All the Way with Arnold Schwartzenegger.
Uncle Temo says that in all of his 68 years he has never stopped looking for interesting pieces to add to the collection.
The museum is 100% privately financed and seeks to be self-sufficient, with no government funding.
Although Ábrego’s collection is big enough to open several museums, the current goal is to consolidate the current museum in San Pedro. The surplus in his collection is slated to rotate in and out of the museum space and is also available for loan to other museums.
But the collection may yet grow larger. It has already received its first offers of donations, one of 800 Barbie dolls and a set of 80 Mr. Potato Heads from the museum’s architect, Roberto Romero.