A File 770 Special: Ryan McNaught’s ‘Bricktionary’ LEGO Exhibit Makes Its World Debut at Cincinnati’s Museum Center

By Chris M. Barkley: In March of 2023, one of the most ambitious artistic endeavors of this decade opened within the halls of one of America’s most recognized and beloved institutions, the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The museum itself is the main tenant of the building known to most people in the metropolitan area as Union Terminal, one of the last of the great railroad stations, whose construction began in August of 1929, two months before the beginning of the Great Depression. Completed in March of 1933, it was built to accommodate 216 passenger trains and 17,000 customers a day.

(On a personal note, I can count myself among those customers; in 1964, my grandmother took me on my first trip outside of Cincinnati to visit cousins and other relatives in Birmingham, Alabama. As some of you may know, that was a particularly perilous time for African-Americans to travel to the Deep South and at that age, I was totally oblivious to the danger of the journey. But, I digress…)

Union Terminal ceased train service in 1972 but was granted status as a National Historic Landmark in May of 1977. Astute readers know that there is more than a passing resemblance between this station of the Hall of Justice of the ABC TV animated series Super Friends (1973-1985).  That’s because Al Gmuer, background supervisor for Hanna-Barbera Productions, based his design on Union Terminal. But, enough about the venue…

The Bricktionary exhibit was created and designed by Australian Ryan McNaught, a former information technology executive. He is one of only twenty-one Lego Certified Professionals in the world and the ONLY Lego professional residing in the Southern Hemisphere. Born in 1973, he was given his first Lego set (which he has to this day!) by his grandmother at the age of three. At age five, he won a Lego Master Builders’ Certificate.

In an introductory video to the exhibit, McNaught explains that for a long while after his childhood, he had no interest in Legos at all. It wasn’t until he became the parent of twins Alexander and Riley in 2008, that he became interested in Legos again. And you can say that he owes his mid-career change to his mother.

McNaught says that his inadvertent path to becoming a master Lego guru began when his mother, Lyn, brought over a crate of Legos that had been gathering dust in the family garage for decades, as a gift for the grandchildren. But, as he began to play with them himself, it not only rekindled his love for the toy bricks, but for the nearly infinite possibilities for their design and function.

Spurred by this revelation, McNaught used LegoMindstorms software to build a remote controlled Qantas Airbus 380 for the 2009 Brickvention Lego event in Melbourne, where it was voted Best In Show. When it made its sensational appearance at the international Brickworld event in Chicago, he was approached by Lego executives to become one of their Certified Professionals.

Above photos by Ryan McNaught

That, in turn, led to several worldwide tours, events and ultimately, co-hosting Australia’s version of Lego Masters (with Hamish Blake) in 2019.

The construction of Ryan McNaught’s Brickionary began in earnest at the Cincinnati Museum Center in February 2023 and officially opened to the public for the first time on March 17th.

And now, here is that aforementioned short video of McNaught, which is featured as an introduction before you enter the exhibit area:

The exhibition is highly interactive; it not only has some incredibly stunning models but also features several stations throughout where children of all ages can discover (or, rediscover) the joys of making their own Lego toys. 

And now, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the Bricktionary: The Interactive Exhibition!

[The photo gallery follows the jump.]

My lovely granddaughter, Lilly, will be showing us the way today…

A friendly museum guide is happily showing off her Lego Ankylosaurus…

Up close…

The magnificent Orca!

Lilly posing with Emmet…

…And Lucy!

Contrast the Lego version of Union Terminal…

…With an image of the actual Union Terminal.

In case you’re wondering, here is a breakdown on the number of Legos used and hours of labor needed to construct the major pieces of the exhibit:

Also, Lilly’s close personal friend played a somewhat popular concert gig in Cincinnati recently. Just so you know…

The Cincinnati Museum Center in the historic Union Terminal is open Thursday thru Monday from 10AM to 5PM.  For tickets to the exhibit or questions regarding it, call (513) 287-7000 in the Greater Cincinnati area or toll free at: (800) 733-2077. CMC Website: https://www.cincymuseum.org/bricktionary/

More information on Ryan McNaught and his various Lego projects can be found at: https://www.thebrickman.com  and https://www.bricktionary.com.au

All uncredited photos by Chris Barkley.

3 thoughts on “A File 770 Special: Ryan McNaught’s ‘Bricktionary’ LEGO Exhibit Makes Its World Debut at Cincinnati’s Museum Center

  1. I admit, I’ve never played with Legos. I was old enough to be past blocks by the time they first appeared in America (1961), and I never had children to reintroduce me to toys. (Although a good friend of mine bought a large Lego project every year for his son’s birthday, and I was intrigued by the constructions that I often saw at their house.) But this exhibit looks awesome! I had no idea of the scale or the sophistication the blocks could achieve. Alligators! Giant planes! The Space Needle (something I have always yearned to see in real life)! I may have to get down to the Museum Center and see it in person. You know, compare the Lego Union Terminal with the real thing.

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