The Toy and Miniature Museum Gets Ready for a Name Change

Let it roll off your tongue … The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Say it again. OK, I think it sounds pretty great. At the benefactor and family unveiling on Oct. 25 of the Art Deco Jewelry Store replica and the start of the 30th anniversary celebration, Museum Director Jamie Berry made the announcement. Several people, including Harlan Brownlee, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, commented that there was a palpable change of the energy in the room when the announcement about the name change was made.

And I completely agree. The room of dignitaries, donors, friends and artists seemed to take a collective breath in anticipation and then the clapping erupted. It’s funny, but I could see the start of setting aside our Midwest sensibilities and standing on the rooftop, declaring that this Midwest treasure is more than just a Midwest location, but a national destination and they are going to prove it.

In the midst of all the celebration, founders Mary Harris Francis (the toy collection contributor) and Barbara Marshall (miniature collection contributor) were also toasted for their dream to start a museum 30 years ago. While David Francis, one of Mary Harris’s sons, and Margaret Silva, the daughter of Barbara Marshall shared brief stories about their mothers and how they laughed that their hobbies could become this fabulous museum. The Museum opened on Oct. 20, 1982.

“At a time when museums housing collections of our type are closing nationwide, we are working to improve our interpretation and education to share the history of the common experience of playing with toys and the growing art form of fine-scale miniatures with a local and national audience,” Berry says.

As part of the Museum’s ongoing mission to educate, inspire and delight visitors, the board of directors and Museum staff invites the community to discover the Museum for the first time, or the hundredth time, during the course of the Museum’s yearlong anniversary celebration.

The anniversary started with Marshall’s last commissioned piece, the Art Deco jewelry store replica, being revealed to the guests. People were amazed at the details and the 15,000 plus beaded chandelier really drew in some gasps when that number was revealed.

Of course, like the staff, I was taken with the two male porcelain figures that have a 5 o’clock shadow across their jaws. I want to spend some more time studying the piece because I really believe there is a short story turning in my head – perhaps something about a wealthy banker in 1928 who brokered the merger of his bank with another bank. He and his wife are enjoying the high life and he is getting her a lovely necklace for the high society ball coming up. OK, that’s my brief story, but I would bet anyone and everyone who takes a look at this incredible and frozen-in-time scene will craft a story in their minds.

I often tell people that I will beat a drum for the good things going on in our community. I want to help share the good news. While that may seem a little on the Pollyanna side of life, isn’t it better to praise the events, the arts and the people who spend time creating the works or placing the objects for all of us to see?

I am glad that the museum staff and board are ready to move forward and give the museum a national feel. Why not? It’s probably one of the best collections of miniatures and toys found anywhere. We need to stand on the rooftops and shout out The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Let’s go, folks! We have a three-decade in-the-making shout just waiting …

Oh, one more thing … the Museum has big plans to mark this 30th anniversary. Of course, there’s the public unveiling of the Art Deco jewelry store replica Nov. 23 and Christmas at the Museum in December. How about Jan. 26, 2013 … marble evaluation day? Spring Break Marble Lessons, March 2013? In the spring, there will be some free date nights. On June 1, the World’s Largest Marble Tournament will take place. Adventures in Learning Series is back in the summer and on Aug. 24, the back-to-school day is free admission. Plus another miniature artist will come for an artist-in-residence stop in September 2013.

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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