The first exhibit at the Anaheim Museum features about 40 kites from different countries and eras to give visitors a sense of the evolution of a toy that has long propelled people's imaginations into flight.
The exhibition, mounted with assistance from the Smithsonian Institution, offers examples of kites from Japan, China and India to a highly innovative design entered in a recent kite-flying competition in Long Beach.
That kite, in the form of a clipper ship, is probably the single most impressive part of the display.
The show, which runs through Feb. 7, also features kites that were used during World War II to give American Navy gunners practice shooting down enemy aircraft.
The exhibit, in the museum's basement, illustrates that some of the most playful uses for kites have a savage edge. In India, certain holidays are marked by a competition in which rivals sail kites with strings covered with a paste that includes ground glass, the object being to slice the opponent's string and bring the kite crashing to the ground.
Apart from the visual pleasure of the kites, the show offers information on aerodynamics that govern kite flight as well as instructions on how to use kites. It also gives toddlers the opportunity to design their own kites.