size matters at the toy & miniature museum

Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell. August 2012.

Thanks to a timely Facebook tip from one of The Roommate’s high school classmates, we recently found ourselves on a warm, sunny Saturday heading off to the University of Kansas City-Missouri campus for a visit to the Toy & Miniature Museum. We both had that nice first-timer feeling since I hadn’t been to the museum in several years and The Roommate was a newbie.

Lucky for our budget, it was a free day at the museum so it was full of visitors’ buzzy energy and the staff had packed a lot of hands-on activities into the day including musical performances, a scavenger hunt looking game, and button-making.

The museum has been in existence since 1979, born of the vast dollhouse and miniature collections of Mary Harris Francis and Barbara Marshall. Located in a former residence built in 1911, it now contains the Midwest’s largest collection of toys and miniatures, as well as the world’s largest assortment of marbles spread out over 33,000 square feet.

Just a fraction of the Toy & Miniature Museum’s marble collection. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell. August 2012.

One of the most striking parts of the collection are the miniature replicas of period rooms comprised in the Seibold Wyckoff collection. Reminiscent of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Miniature Rooms, I spent a lot of time oohing and ahhing here. Close looking was rewarded, as I spotted painstakingly small renderings of famous artworks, farm animals, and decorative items. Also of note is the collection of the work of William Robertson, who is something of a rockstar in the miniature world.

Seibold Wyckoff Collection. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell. August 2012.

That “hello, mortality” moment where you see something in a museum that you used to own? Yeah, we had that, especially while viewing the Barbie and Star Wars collections. But reminiscing over vicious Stay Alive deathmatches and shaking our head in amazement over how much our action figures would be worth today was nothing but a good time.

Barbie commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell. August 2012.

Although we saw many amazing things, what impressed me the most wasn’t an exhibit at all. In a small room tucked between galleries, seemingly unnoticed by most visitors, was a museum employee cataloging collection objects.

Toy & Miniature museum cataloging project. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell. August 2012.

As a museum wonk, I was so excited to see this! The Roommate moved on while I gaped at this person like he was on display at the zoo. I couldn’t help it. I loved that this museum was letting us take a peek behind the scenes, while explaining the importance of documenting every object in the collection for the visitors of today and the future.

Panel describing the Toy & Miniature Museum cataloging project. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell. August 2012.

Our visit was way too brief but I can’t wait to make a return trip soon and discover more treasures!