The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures’s mission is to educate, inspire and delight adults and children through the museum's collection and preservation of toys and miniatures. The museum’s historical toy collection invites reminiscing across generations, genders, and lifestyles.
The museum was built from and fueled by the passion of two friends, Mary Harris Francis and Barbara Marshall, who loved to collect and loved sharing the wonder and whimsy of their collections with others.
The Toy and Miniature Museum opened in 1982. Operating in the former Tureman Mansion, leased from the University of Missouri - Kansas City, the museum originally consisted of 7,000 square feet of exhibit space with two full-time staff members. In 1985 the museum's founders, Mary Harris Francis and Barbara Marshall, formed the Toy and Miniature Museum Foundation, donated their personal collections to the foundation, and undertook a major fundraising effort to build an addition onto the original building. After the long-term loan of an extensive marble collection in 2004, a second addition added 12,000 square feet. Currently, the museum has a staff of eight, 33,000 square feet of exhibit space, and annual attendance of approximately 25,000 visitors.
T/m’s toy collection is broad in scope, and the sheer volume of materials makes it one of the largest museum toy collections in the United States. The collection is particularly strong in dollhouses, dolls, transportation toys, stuffed animals, housekeeping toys, and toy shops and kitchens. The core strengths of the collection date primarily between 1870 and 1930.
The museum’s collection of fine-scale contemporary art miniatures is the largest collection of its kind in the world. It includes freestanding structures, room settings, and some of the finest examples of furniture, decorative accessories, silver, porcelain, glassware, paintings, and tools and equipment, in terms of artistry, quality of workmanship, and uniqueness. Created by master craftsmen and artists, they often are one-of-a-kind or limited-production pieces, and encompass a number of subjects including history, architecture, decorative arts, material culture, science, and mathematics. The museum primarily collects items in three scales: 1” to 1ft; ½” to 1ft.; and ¼” to 1ft.
The museum has a temporary exhibit gallery space which changes throughout the year. Recent exhibitions featured Star Wars, plastic play sets of the 1950s and 1960s, Barbie in 50 Years with America’s Favorite Fashion Doll, and a local toy artist in Trash or Treasure? The Strange Items and Curious Artifacts of Just Colcord. The museum is open to the public year-round from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The majority of the museum's current income is from the endowment fund, museum store sales, admission fees, and memberships; a strategic fundraising plan is under development. The museum is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization and receives no state or federal funding.
Following the anticipated successful completion of a $9.2 million capital campaign in 2013, the museum will be temporarily closing for renovations on January 6, 2014. The museum’s first public capital campaign garnered local, regional, and national support for building construction to improve the museum’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and create a building climate which meets museum standards for collection preservation; augment the museum’s endowment to provide funding for increased outreach and education, as well as future acquisitions; and, provide funds to support new exhibitions and interpretation, beginning with a master plan focusing on traffic flow and the visitor experience.
Along with a physical transformation, the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City will become The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures (T/m) in 2014. Over the last thirty-one years that the museum founders were building the Toy and Miniature Museum, similar institutions were closing their doors. In just the last ten years, 27 toy and doll museums have closed, and with them, an important piece of Americana. Prominent collections have been auctioned off, many into the hands of private collectors, no longer available for viewing.
This leaves The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, with its collection of more than 72,000 artifacts, as one of a few in the country exclusively focused on the exhibition and interpretation of the subject matter. T/m will be a world-class museum that builds a fresh and relevant future on the strong foundation of our founders’ original intent, using storytelling and unique interactive experiences to bring out the curious nature and sense of imagination in every person, every time they visit.
With a dedicated staff of eight and a core group of volunteers, the museum achieved the following goals in 2013:
Although the museum will be closed for renovations in 2014, the staff will be busy at work:
museum’s most pressing needs for support include the following:
Exhibitions: Underwriting for execution of the phased exhibition plan and special exhibitions to allow the institution to better use the collection tofoster an appreciation for and understanding of antique toys and fine-scale miniatures beyond the collection’s inherent wonder and whimsy.
Volunteers: Additional volunteer staff to assist with research, greeting and orienting visitors, and assisting with program stations.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures contains a world-class collection of both historic toys and fine-scale miniatures. Our collection appeals to a broad variety of interests including art, architecture, culture, and history. The museum offers a unique venue for generations to explore together and we encourage friends and families to study the pieces and allow their sense of wonder and their critical thinking skills to engage as they reminisce through the toy exhibitions or stand in awe in front of the miniatures. We strive to create an inviting and educational atmosphere that gives patrons a reason to return again and again.
Institutions like this are rare. Museums dedicated to housing the history of childhood through toys and artifacts of play are slowly being lost. Additionally, museums of this size and scope devoted to miniature artistry virtually do not exist. The numbers alone increase the notoriety of our museum as a national institution. Our continued growth will be a benefit to Kansas City. Currently, patrons visit the museum from across the globe; 42% of visitors come from outside of the Kansas City metropolitan area. We look forward to welcoming local and national visitors when we reopen in early 2015.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is a unique entity in our community. Under a single roof it combines the essence of childhood at play and its cultural implications, with the finest collection of artisan miniatures in the world - a delight to adults and children alike. With the help of dedicated staff, strategic leadership and an enthusiastic board, we have addressed pertinent issues that have enabled the museum to remain relevant as an institute of childhood history and as a unique art form, even in a weak economy. We have undertaken to clarify our message as a museum with improved branding strategies and communications.
As a board, we have worked to build a multi-year strategic vision for the future and to ensure the protection of these collections for years to come. We recognize the importance of building on the founders' vision to enhance the museum's role in the community and to increase that involvement and support. As the current chairman of the board, I feel personally drawn to the museum and honored to be asked to serve what I know to be the finest institution of its kind. Long before I joined the board, it had been one of my favorite places in Kansas City. I have always taken friends and visitors to see it. I am constantly inspired by the passion, dedication and generosity of the founders to share such treasures with the community and to benefit the cultural life of this city. And I remain committed to helping to ensure its future.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures seeks to educate, inspire, and delight museum visitors and members about the historical and cultural significance of toys and miniatures with a variety of innovative educational and programmatic strategies. Through on-going programing, museum educators use the collection as a gateway to learning; inspiring and cultivating contemplation, curiosity, imagination, analysis, and discussion.
The museum desires to increase accessibility to the collection
for a larger demographic by offering collections-focused programs with a
hands-on workshop component, such as the summer’s annual Adventures in Learning series, the miniature artist-in-residence series, and family free days. During these educational programs and events, visitors gain an appreciation for and understanding of the difference between antique, historical toys and fine-scale, contemporary art miniatures.
Through programming, the museum strives to assist visitors in understanding and appreciating the art of the imagination inherent in the collection. The museum’s education staff desires to share these lessons with an increasingly diverse museum audience in order to break down race, gender, and cultural barriers in the Kansas City community using the common ground of play and toys.
Success will be measured by attendance and membership rates;
repeat visitation by existing members and guests in both guided tours and
on-going programming; an increase in community recognition in the form of
visitation, membership, donations, volunteers, partnerships, and sponsorships;
positive feedback from program participants and museum visitors; and an
increase in individual interaction with the organization in terms of newsletter
registrations, repeat visitation, and volunteers.
For the second year in a row, the museum’s annual free Back to School Day welcomed almost 1,000 people to the museum for hands-on activities that encouraged engagement with the collection and conversation amongst multigenerational groups. A majority of the visitors had never been to the museum.
The museum has more than 70,000 artifacts in its collection.
Museum staff strives to achieve the institution’s mission to educate, inspire, and delight visitors by using the collection, built from and fueled by the passion of the museum founders, to foster an appreciation for and understanding of antique toys and fine-scale miniatures beyond the collection’s inherent wonder.
The museum presents special exhibitions highlighting aspects of our collection and other collectors’ assemblages, with an emphasis on exhibitions with a multi-generational appeal. Each exhibition includes educational, interactive, and contextual elements, in addition to supplemental programming. Currently, the museum has a backlog of exhibition ideas; underwriting support is needed to create these temporary exhibitions and to complete additional phases of the exhibition master plan being developed by West Office Exhibition Design.
T/m seeks to be a portal to the past, a chronicle of the
ways that our imaginations have served us over time and our material culture
has shaped and reflected our lives. Children of all ages, at all income levels
have engaged in play across generations. The museum is a place for visitors to find common ground, reminisce, analyze, and discuss. Short-term success includes visitors’ understanding of the difference between antique toys and fine-scale miniatures, as well as an increase in corporations and community organizations seeking to partner with the museum.
Long-term success of the museum’s exhibitions will be marked by
The museum tracks attendance, revenue, donations, and requests for membership information. Those are then compared to other special exhibitions and non-exhibition periods to determine the success of exhibition topics and provide guidance for future exhibitions. Interactive experiences in the temporary exhibitions allow for visitor feedback; these qualitative responses provide insight into visitor enjoyment of an exhibition.
The museum’s most recent temporary exhibition, 50 Years of America’s Favorite Fashion Doll, has succeeded in an increase in museum attendance, the opportunity for multi-generational conversations surrounding the popular doll, and positive visitor feedback, including an interactive element inviting visitors to share their Barbie story. Many of the stories left by visitors express the intergenerational quality of toys—one nine year old stated “I love playing with Barbie since I got my first one till I have 25 of them I play with mine, my mom’s and my grandma’s Barbie even with the first one [sic]”— and the eminent accessibility of them—a 41 year old woman shared, “I loved to play with my Barbies! When I was little we couldn’t afford all the cool accessories, but I would spend all day making cardboard food and furniture.”
In the spring and summer of 2013, the museum featured a local artist in Trash or Treasure? The Curious Items and Strange Artifacts of Just Colcord. Colcord crafts figures and “toys” out of found objects. Many of the objects on exhibit at the museum were also featured in Colcord’s stop-motion films. The exhibition not only increased attendance, but also introduced the museum to a new demographic during its run, which included two free Adults-Only Nights.
With underwriter assistance, the museum hopes to continue fulfilling its mission by improving current interpretation, presenting new exhibitions, increasing visitor enjoyment, and building the museum’s audience and community support.
The museum collection provides unlimited educational possibilities for adults by encompassing a number of subjects including history, architecture, decorative arts, material culture, science, and mathematics. The fine-scale miniature collection is an illustration of our material history, simultaneously demonstrating human innovation, craftsmanship, and ingenuity while challenging viewers’ concept of what is possible and stimulating critical thinking skills.
Toys are the product of the evolutionary social construction of childhood, stimulating imagination and creativity, while also reflecting education through play by teaching children adult skills and societal expectations; emulating cultural norms and mores, including commentaries on race, ethnicity, religion, politics, and world events from the time in which the toys were created; and documenting the hopes, dreams, technological advancements, economic successes and failures of a society. Through these subjects and more, the museum will continue to foster an adult audience with targeted programming.
Program short-term success will be gauged by achieving status as a study resource for art, art history, architecture, and material culture students at local educational institutions and beyond; the development of an appreciation of fine-scale miniatures as a contemporary art form; and the dissemination of a passion for collecting and the importance of proper preservation and storage for future enjoyment.
Long-term success includes achieving status as a resource for the cultivation of creativity and imagination; developing partnerships with other arts and culture organizations in the community, garnering support and introducing new adult audiences to the institution; and becoming a resource for miniature artists, toy collector and enthusiast communities and their associated organizations, and local colleges and universities.
Program success will be monitored by an increase in
individual interaction with the organization in terms of newsletter registrations, repeat visitation, and volunteers; and positive feedback from program participants and museum visitors.
The 2012 Miniature Artist in Residence program, featuring Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel, successfully attracted adult visitors to the museum and enthralled those who arrived without prior knowledge of the program. Over 1,100 adults enjoyed the program and exhibition of the artist’s work. Many adults interested in pursuing art, and miniature art in particular, attended the program’s events. One woman sat with Wessel in her in-gallery studio for two hours watching her work and picking the artist’s brain for instructional and bibliographic resources. Another young woman stopped by during a college visit to see the accompanying exhibition and discuss art schools with Wessel.
In preparation for renovations, the museum decided to postpone the 2013 Miniature Artist in Residence program until the museum has re-opened. At that time, we look forward to premiering new miniature room settings and welcoming the artists, Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers, to Kansas City from the United Kingdom to talk about their work.
The museum's collection is strong in depth and breadth. We are striving to create on-going programming for our core audiences, including multi-generational families, adults, school-aged children, and tourists. The programming will create context and help our guests explore the many facets of our collections. As a museum with a relatively small budget and staff, our biggest programmatic challenge is having enough resources. With the Midwest's largest toy collection and the world's largest miniature collection, we have the potential to provide exceptional interpretation and educational programming. However, we currently lack the funds needed to expand. Additional funding would allow us to increase the frequency of changing exhibitions and program offerings for all ages.
Berry has an EMBA from the Bloch School of Management at University of Missouri - Kansas City and has worked in both for profit and non-profit organizations. She brings over 25 years of experience in operations, management, sales, and marketing, and teaches leadership as an adjunct professor at UMKC.
Dobbins received her M.A. in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program at the State University of New York. She has worked in various capacities of escalating responsibility and expertise in the museum industry for 16 years. Dobbins is a noted speaker and author in the field and has vast experience from participation on numerous boards and committees.
Taylor is pursuing a M.A. in Art History from the University of Missouri - Kansas City and received a B.A. in History from Friends University. Her 18 years of experience in history and museum capacities includes Director of Tourism and Visitor Relations at Hillwood Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C. and Historic Interpreter at Historic Mount Vernon.
Mundt received a M.A. in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program at the State University of New York and a B.A. in History and Business Administration, Marketing Concentration from Truman State University. She has completed a Fundraising Certificate from the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Her 6 years of professional experience in all aspects of art, history, and science museums includes institutions in Kansas, Missouri, and New York, as well as presentations at local and national conferences.
The museum continues to mature and we are now realizing the impact of our evolution. With the expansion of the board, hiring of professional management and staff, and the adoption of professional museum standards, the museum has put itself on the path towards long-term sustainability. We are currently beginning another chapter of growth as we work toward aligning our physical structure and layout to match the ideas and possibilities the staff and board recognize we can achieve. While it is exciting, it is stressful for the staff to maintain balance with meeting today's needs and planning for the future. Yet is it is a joyful process full of promise and we are pleased with how far we have come over the past few years. But even more, we look very forward to where we are going!
After an outside review of the museum in 2004-2005, the board elected to increase its size. Previously composed of two members of each of the founding families and two representatives of UMKC, the board expanded to include community representatives in 2006. The secretary and museum's executive director also sit on the board, but are non-voting members. In 2012, the board began to enact its strategic plan, which included a further expansion of the board with a focus on community members and diversity. Five new members bring the board total to eleven voting members. The new members represent strategic needs of the institution, from marketing to architecture and facilities, and expertise in the museum collections, including an artist and well-known toy collector.
The board terms vary due to the founding family representation. The bylaws state that each founding family will have two representatives appointed by the families. Those designees serve at the will of the families, so no true term limits exist for those members. The rest of the board serves an initial three-year term with the ability to renew for a second term.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
The main source of operations for the museum comes from the endowment, entrance fees, and a few significant donors. The board has identified the need to grow our annual budget to support programming, a more robust exhibit schedule, and marketing of events. In the last year, the board has been working to develop a plan designed to increase the museum’s income. The plan’s strategies include growing the endowment, community fundraising, underwriting for exhibits and programming, and participation in grant programs. The board has been working diligently to prepare the institution for the upcoming renovations that are the result of strategic planning processes, which uncovered the need for changes to the museum building as well as interpretation and exhibition.
Greater Kansas City Community Foundation
1055 Broadway Blvd., Suite 130, Kansas City, Missouri 64105
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