Visit These Troves of Tiny Treasures

Your grandchildren will delight in touring these museums and collections

By Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Miniatures mesmerize children. Dollhouses, action figures, and small vehicles — kids love playing with scaled-down toys that let them feel big. Enjoy these special places with your grandchildren and marvel at miniatures:

Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys in Denver
Situated in a historic house, this museum offers afternoon tea, by appointment, in one of the galleries. The Southwestern miniatures collection includes an adobe dollhouse furnished with handmade rugs, baskets, and pottery.
Top 3 items: Miss Yokohama Japanese Friendship Doll; 1700s German Dollhouse with wax dolls; Big Ben and Family teddy bears from England
Kids' favorites: Kingscote Dollhouse replica of a Newport, R.I. mansion; and the Barbie exhibit, the trains, and miniature circus

[photo highpoint max-width=150 align=right]Doll & Miniature Museum of High Point in High Point, N.C.
The permanent collection includes 2,700 dolls, dollhouses, and miniatures from around the world, dating from the late 1600s to the present.
Top 3 collections: 130 Shirley Temple Dolls; Nativity scene with 50 carved-wood figures dating from the late 1600s to 1800s; 18 African American portrait bisque dolls
Kids' favorites: American Girl dolls, Steinbach Nutcracker Collection

The Forde Doll & Dollhouse Collection at The Hampton House Bed & Breakfast in Walterboro, S.C.
You can include a luncheon or tea party with a tour of this B&B that houses a collection of 74 dollhouses and more than 30 room-boxes. Sage Jadrnicek, 9, of Walterboro said, "Seeing the collection motivated me to want to make my own dolls and dollhouses."
Top 3 items: 1880s German Christmas Diorama; a late 1700s Chinese emperor encased in a lacquered pagoda that hand-carved large fu dogs guard; two-inch scale 1890s German kitchen with original furnishings
Kids' favorites: early 1900 Japanese Doll Palace, 1920 cement-block garage

[photo danville max-width=150 align=right]The Great American Dollhouse Museum in Danville, Ky.
Opened in August 2008, this "social history museum" displays inhabitants of an American town circa 1900 in diminutive detail. Amy Richardson, a Lexington school teacher and mother of three, says, "There is nothing like this place — anywhere!"
Top 3 items: The Timeline of American History; The Village, circa 1910; The Fantasy Forest in a walk-in cave
Kids' favorite: The Mansion District and The Cave Room full of dragons, witches, and trolls

The Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago
This museum has diverse collections of models to appeal to everyone.
Top 3 miniature items: A model railroad that allows interactive play with more than 30 trains on 3,500 feet of track; a movie star's dollhouse, made of precious materials; about 50 model ships.
Kids' favorite: Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle,The Great Train Story

The Old Salem Toy Museum in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Featuring a small collection of toys made and used in Winston-Salem, this museum tells the complete story of toys from 225 A.D. to 1925 with displays of the very best examples in each subject or medium.
Top 3 items: A 1740 English Baby House; a 1918 complete Schoenhut Circus; a 1915 Mountain Home Set made by the Tryon Toy Makers of North Carolina.
Kids' favorite: Miniatures, 19th and early 20th century tin toys

[photo museumofplay max-width=150 align=right]Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.
This is the only museum in the world devoted to the study of play and how it illuminates U.S. culture. It has the world's largest and most historically significant collection of toys, dolls, and play-related objects and is home to the National Toy Hall of Fame.
Top 3 items: Dolls; board games; toy airplanes
Kids' favorite: Super Kids Market, where children run an entire store

Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago
Between 1932 and 1940, master craftsmen constructed these 68 miniature rooms using a one-inch to one-foot scale. It shows the development of interiors from the13th to the mid-19th century and is the largest and most famous collection of its kind in the world.
Top 3 items: American Rooms No. 31 (modeled after Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage) and No. 37 (ten original pieces of art), and European Room No. 9 (a Georgian-style English drawing room
Kids' favorite: European Room 2 (an English castle bedchamber)

[photo kansas max-width=150 align=right]Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City in Kansas City, Mo.
After touring the collection of Victorian toys in this 33-room mansion dating from 1911, Kansas City resident, 9-year-old Kestral Jurkiewicz said, "I think the people who made all the miniatures are brilliant."
Top 3 items: Twin Manors Georgian miniature built to one-twelfth scale; Miss Mary, an 1861 cloth doll; the largest collection of marbles in the nation.
Kids' favorites: Almost 100 dollhouses, trains, and marbles

Other special collections:

Artillery Ridge in Gettysburg, Pa., has an 800-square-foot mock-up of the Civil War battle of Gettysburg, with more than 20,000 tiny figures, and is the largest battlefield diorama in the country.

The Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, from November to January features, Masterpieces in Miniature; the exhibit includes miniatures that artists create especially for the holidays,

A fully-functional machine shop built to one/twelfth scale is a special exhibit at the Museum of Miniature Houses & Other Collections in Carmel, Ind.

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum in San Diego claims the world's largest indoor model railroad display.

Related Information

Many museums enforce "look, don't touch," policies. Be sure to prepare your grandchildren.

Here are other museums of miniatures to visit:

Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum in Fennimore, Wisc.

Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis in St. Louis, Mo.

National Miniatures Trust Museum in Hickory Corners, Mich.

National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, Pa.

 

Visit the new Astolat Castle at the Ridder MiniArtMuseum for Children at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, N.Y. Take a look at Barbie Through the Years, or plug in "miniature golf" in the search box at the top of this page to find a course near you.

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