Relive your childhood and learn more about cultures around the world by viewing some of these terrific doll collections.
By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
Dolls are found in more places than in a child’s arms, a baby buggy, or tossed on the bed. They’re also housed in museums across the country, proving that collecting dolls is a widespread hobby. Kaye amassed quite a doll collection as a child. It still exists, safely tucked away in the back of a closet. Researching this column sparked the urge to get them out and display a few of the more historic ones. Here’s a baker’s dozen worth of doll museums for you to enjoy.
1. Rosalie Whyel Museum Of Doll Art, Bellevue, Washington. Visitors to this museum are surrounded by one of the world’s finest doll collections. Exhibits feature more than a thousand dolls ranging from antique to modern, augmented by dollhouses, teddy bears, toys, and other childhood treasures. In addition to the dolls, the setting is worth a visit. You can stroll through the English garden and simply enjoy the modern structure with its Victorian influences. It’s an excellent environment for the dolls within.
2. Mary Miller Doll Museum, Brunswick, Georgia. The Mary Miller museum contains more than 3,000 dolls, dollhouses, and toys from countries around the world. Ms. Miller began the collection as a display for her travel agency some years back, and it gradually expanded. Most of the dolls are arranged by country, allowing visitors to connect the doll with its time, its culture, and its place of origin. What a great lure for travelers. There are also special dolls, such as first lady and presidential dolls, as well as ones that belonged to local residents. If travel in Georgia is in your plans, a stop at this museum is a must.
3. Philadelphia Doll Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here lies one of the few museums focusing on black dolls, both in history and culture. More than 500 dolls give insights into how black people were seen throughout world history. It’s interesting to note that three black papier-mí¢ché dolls made in Germany are the oldest in the collection. Sounds like a winner to us.
4. UFDC Doll Museum, Kansas City, Missouri. Located at the corporate headquarters of the United Federation of Doll Clubs, this collection presents a broad range of dolls from the 1700s to the present. Given the span of three centuries, materials used to make the dolls vary widely. Wood, papier-mí¢ché, china, cloth, bisque, and plastic dolls are all represented, with each doll clad in the attire of its era. Exhibits change periodically.
5. McCurdy Historical Doll Museum, Provo, Utah. You may have a hard time making it through this museum in a single day. The collection, which is displayed in a restored carriage house, includes more than 4,000 dolls. Visitors will see dolls resembling the first ladies of the United States; American Indian dolls; dolls representing women of the Bible; rare boy dolls; 47 rooms of miniature furniture; and much more. A collection of toy soldiers rounds out the displays.
6. Fennimore Doll & Toy Museum & Gift Shoppe, Fennimore, Wisconsin. Here’s a doll lover’s delight. The Fennimore (owned by the city) was established in 1991 to showcase a private collection. Since then it has expanded to include collections from throughout the United States and around the world. More than 80 cases display dolls and toys dating as far back as 1810.
7. Doll & Toy Museum (Mid-Ohio Historical Museum), Canal Winchester, Ohio. Picture thousands of dolls, antique to modern, including toys made by Disney, toy trains, and even a toy circus. Sounds nostalgic, doesn’t it? Displays at this museum include family settings, elegant ladies daintily sipping tea, memories of Barbieland, G.I. Joe collections, and even Lionel trains. Children of the past delighted in them; children and adults of today see beauty in a historical setting.
8. Enchanted World Doll Museum, Mitchell, South Dakota. You’ll be enchanted all right, even before you visit the dolls. Guests enter through the doors of an English castle, complete with a moat, turrets, and a drawbridge. Inside, you’ll discover more than 4,000 dolls. Whether antique or modern, the dolls are exhibited in dioramas of their era. Recognized as one of the best doll museums in the world, this nonprofit charitable and educational foundation encourages doll lovers of all ages to come, to learn, and to enjoy the dolls. Of all the possibilities, this museum is our favorite.
9. Yesterday’s Children Antique Doll & Toy Museum, Vicksburg, Mississippi. Here you can study and enjoy the artistry of classic European doll makers. This museum has one of the largest collections of 19th-century and early 20th-century French and German bisque-head dolls anywhere. Visitors also may view the newly added Joyce Welsh Collection, consisting of French and German antique dolls.
10. Virginia S. Evans Doll Museum, South Hill, Virginia. Located in South Hill’s Historic Depot, the Virginia Evans museum has a collection of more than 500 dolls dating back to the 19th century. Familiar and exotic dolls from around the world are displayed. And with so many examples on exhibit, you’re pretty certain to have seen, if not played with, one or more of these dolls during your own childhood.
11. Enchanted Mansion, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Imagine walking through a life-size Victorian dollhouse. Surrounded by unique architecture and an interior that carries you back through time, the Enchanted Mansion draws you into the world of long ago. Of the more than 2,000 dolls on display, many are rare, antique, and/or one-of-a-kind. All proceeds from the mansion go to charity.
12. The Little Falls Railroad & Doll Museum, Sparta, Wisconsin. A magical experience awaits your visit, ranging from 200-year-old German dolls to Barbie (introduced in 1959). Stop for a moment and imagine a 5-foot-tall Victorian lady dressed in a walking suit, a little girl standing in front of a mirror wearing her mother’s clothes, or a collection of Madame Alexander dolls clad in gowns such as those worn by first ladies when their husbands became president. This guided tour will make you feel like you’re walking through a time machine.
13. Victorian Doll Museum & Chili Doll Hospital, North Chili, New York. Here’s another case of childhood doll collecting leading to much more. Now it takes a museum to house the 3,000-plus dolls acquired by Linda Greenfield. Her dedication is made obvious by the diversity of dolls so handsomely displayed behind floor-to-ceiling glass cases. Dolls of all sizes, shapes, and construction are made of bisque, china, wood, wax, metal, felt, ivory, and papier-mí¢ché. There’s a Toy Circus, and Noah’s Ark complete with animals. Visitors will see dolls familiar from their childhood, and others that are almost beyond imagination.