During a business trip to New York City in the 1950s, Kansas City resident Barbara Marshall stumbled across the subterranean gallery of Eric Pearson, a maker of fine-scale miniature furniture. A lover of small things, Marshall was charmed by a 1:12 scale comb-back rocker. Its purchase would set her on the path to becoming one of the most important collectors and patrons of the fine-scale miniature art movement.
During this period of her life, Marshall was a busy mother of three young children. She had professional responsibilities at Hallmark Cards, Inc., her father’s company, and was a docent for the American decorative arts department at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The small rocking chair was displayed on a bookcase in the living room of the family home in Kansas City, and she indulged her childhood love of small things by slowly adding to her collection.
Marshall’s education at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art refined her aesthetic eye and ability to select museum-quality miniatures with accurate details and exact proportions. As her collection expanded, her experience at Hallmark began to influence her philosophy. Hallmark encouraged creative experimentation and pushed artists to test their imaginations. Marshall wanted fine-scale artists to have the same opportunities. When she found an artist that met her precise standards, she provided the financial support for them to create what they had always dreamed of making. Today, the fine-scale miniature galleries of The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures are filled with the spectacular results of these commissions.
Marshall established the museum in partnership with her friend, a toy collector, Mary Harris Francis, in 1982; originally, it was named the Miniature Museum of Kansas City. As the museum’s collection grew, so did Marshall’s commitment to champion fine-scale miniatures as an art form. In 2004, she completed an addition to the museum with the help of fine-scale artist William R. Robertson. The Fine-scale Miniature Galleries contain individual objects as well as room settings and architectural works. Marshall retired from the museum in 2010, leaving a strong legacy in both the miniature and museum communities.
September 15-17, 2017, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, is hosting Miniature Masterworks, a continuation of Marshall’s work as a patron of artists and the fine-scale miniature art movement. During this event, three artists will be honored with the Barbara Marshall Award for Artistic Achievement. Applicants for this award were encouraged to continue pushing the boundaries of the art form and were invited to submit one new work, or edition, that had never been shown before. Judges will consider the work’s quality, artistry, and contribution to the fine-scale miniature movement. Award entries and winners will be displayed at artists’ tables throughout Miniature Masterworks.