Passport to the World

Opening and Contents of Exhibit

Passport to the World, an exhibit based on Theresa and Frank Caplan’s donation of 50,000 toys and artifacts collected from 120 countries, encouraged visitors to explore other places and cultures from 1986 to 2008.

From its opening on December 6, 1986 until it closed in 2008, Passport to the World was a popular attraction for families and school groups alike. The exhibit was based on the Caplan Collection, a treasure trove of more than 50,000 folk toys from 120 countries assembled by Frank and Theresa Caplan, renowned early childhood educators, authors, and founders of the innovative toy company Creative Playthings.

When the Caplans gave the their collection to The Children’s Museum in 1985, it was with the understanding that its contents would be displayed for visitors, rather than stored away, which became the impetus for the Passport to the World exhibit. A gala opening night celebration honoring the Caplans on Dec. 5 featured diplomats from around the world, as well as Larry Bruce, the president for the U.S. Committee of UNICEF.

Throughout its 23-year history, Passport to the World invited visitors to explore other cultures and learn about differences and similarities among peoples around the globe through hands-on activities, and interaction with international musicians, storytellers, artists, and craftspeople. “Celebrate. Communicate. Create. Imagine. You’ll find people around the world pursuing these activities. That’s the theme of Passport to the World,” wrote director Peter Sterling in the museum’s 1986 annual report.


Passport to the World closed in 2008 to make way for a new cultural exhibit series. The Take Me There® gallery, which features an immersive experience of a single country. The series began with Take Me There: Egypt from 2009 to 2013, followed by China for a three-year period beginning in 2014. Each Take Me There exhibit also features objects from the Caplan Collection, as do other galleries throughout the museum.