CHESHIRE — The Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum takes you back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons, owning a Mickey Mouse rotary phone, carrying a plastic character lunch box and reading classic comics.
“Sometimes four generations come in at once and they all come out so happy,” said Ursula Vinke, docent of the museum. “It’s a place where you forget all your troubles.”
The museum, home to 80,000 character toys and collectibles, was created by Herbert and Gloria Barker, who accumulated the pieces starting in the 1960s. It is located at 1188 Highland Ave. (Route 10).
Most of the museum consists of the Barkers’ personal collections, with a smaller portion donated.
Dozens of Wizard of Oz figurines, toys, dolls and other items from the 1939 movie were recently given to the museum by the family of a late collector.
“They want their legacy to be given to a good home and this is a good home,” Vinke said.
Items in the museum range from the 1873 “Ramp Walkers” toys to 2009 Harry Potter and Hulk memorabilia.
At 8 feet tall, the giant green Marvel superhero is hard to miss, standing across from early Disney and Popeye pieces.
“He gets lots of reactions,” Vinke said of the Hulk statue, a 2008 promotion for the Hulk movie.
Guests will also encounter the Simpsons, a cardboard cut-out of John Smith from “Pocahontas” and a giant statue of Po from “Kung Fu Panda.”
Over 500 character lunchboxes are scattered throughout the museum, hanging above guests heads as they venture through the aisles.
Vinke said people are often able to point out the lunchbox they had as a kid, including Mary Poppins and The Beatles.
“In what your interests lie, you will find it here,” Vinke said.
In the building next door guests can continue their nostalgic journey at the Barker art gallery featuring prints, paintings and collectible pieces, some limited editions, from a variety of animation studios.
“Most people who come in are just really excited about the art work,” said Madeline McGrail, gallery director. “They’ll see Popeye and Betty Boop or they’ll see some of these older Disney films like Dumbo, that’s being revived, and it just helps the generations connect.”
The first display guests see when they walk in are 3-D Dr. Seuss characters mounted on plaques as part of the re-produced “Dr. Seuss Unorthodox Taxidermy” collection.
“Dr. Seuss had a very long storied career in addition to just doing children’s illustration,” McGrail said. “He started doing these in the ’30s.”
The whimsical pieces are just part of the one-of-a-kind items guests can find at both the gallery and museum.