Neighborhood Treasures: National Museum of Toys & Miniatures
In between Hyde Park and Brookside, at the edge of the University of Missouri Kansas City campus, you can find the absolute smallest neighborhood in Kansas City. It’s an entire community of spectacular dollhouses in the Toy & Miniature Museum. This might be Kansas City’s smallest neighborhood, but these are the largest toy houses you will ever see—one micro mansion is 9 feet tall.
The Toy and Miniature Museum is one of the city’s biggest secrets.
The overall collection is also ironically enormous: it’s the largest collection of miniatures in the country. With playthings of every kind, over 100 dollhouses, mind-boggling detail in miniature reproductions, and toys from four different centuries, they have almost 80,000 pieces in their toy chest. It’s one of the biggest and best sets of antique toys in the country—and their collection of marbles is also one of the largest in the world.
In their rotating exhibits, the Toy and Miniature Museum also curates a thoughtful carousel of delights and adventures, sometimes highlighting local toymakers or artists. The exhibits have ranged from the methodically upcycled private art world of Oznog—a robot created by local artist Just Colchord—to the plush characters that Kansas City toy designer Donna Moore “sketched” in fabric and thread for Hallmark for worldwide distribution (current exhibit). Their historical exhibits can range across the spectrum of American toy cars, to a meticulous miniature recreation of Versailles with the ornate furniture of the Kings of France (current exhibit).
All these discoveries are housed in one of Kansas City’s stunning historic homes, the 38-room Tureman House. Overlooking the UMKC campus, the interior of this Italianate mansion still reveals hints of its original 1911 luxury.
Even better, the entire thing began just as it should have—with a childhood friendship. One of the museum’s founders, Barbara Hall Marshall, began collecting miniatures in the 50’s. Her girlhood playmate, Mary Harris Francis, then started to collect dollhouses in the early 1970’s. In 1982, the two decided to share their toys with the world, and “The Miniature Museum” was born. Since then it has expanded, gone through a few changes, and even changed its name— growing up quite a bit. Reopening in 2015 after extensive renovations, it is now officially the “National Museum of Toys / Miniatures”, a title it certainly deserves, but many still remember it as the Toy and Miniature Museum.
After all, this is a place that truly plays to our memories. Even the oldest toy in the building, a doll from 1750’s, feels familiar and evocative - it doesn’t hurt that her expression is every bit as sassy and modern-looking as an original Barbie. This might be why the museum is every bit as popular with adults as it is with children—perhaps more so—since we get to relive the playful past for a while.
You don’t need to bring kids along to plan your own playdate at the Tureman Mansion and the Coleman House (the 9’x7’ dollhouse inside it). Want to see other grown-up sized houses in the neighborhood? We can show you around.