Life is tiny at the Toy & Miniature Museum

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The fine china is gorgeous. Its intricate flower designs catch the eye and its gold accents shimmer in the light. This is beautiful dishware that anyone would be proud to own and display.

fine-china

And all of these dishes are about an inch tall.

If you find tiny things cool (who doesn’t?), there’s lots to enjoy at the Toy & Miniature Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. From entire mansions broken into the smallest rooms imaginable to little spools of thread that are only a couple of millimeters high to a teeny re-creation of the Noah’s Ark animals, this place has everything, at 1/12th the usual size.

The collection of miniatures

This is one of my favorite mini scenes. A sewing grandmother, just a few inches tall. Look at the complex designs on her rug. And that tiny pin cushion!

grandmother-sewing

The first few rooms you’ll encounter in the museum are full houses broken down into mini rooms. Step closer to peer into each room.

visitor

The intricate level of detail and precision in these little rooms is amazing.

fancy-room

green-room

When the residents of the tiny houses want to do some shopping, they can head to the nearby jewelry store for some miniature bling.

jewelry-store

It’s a little difficult to show just how small some of these pieces are. Here’s a shot of some furniture as seen from a distance in its case, and again at close range.

miniature furniture

And here are some fake peppermint candies. The one on the right is the same size as a real candy, while those next to it are mini-me versions.

peppermint-candy

Noteworthy miniature sights

The most fascinating house in the Miniature Museum is known as the Coleman House, which stands nine feet tall and seven feet wide. It was built in the 1860s by a wealthy ironmaker in Lebanon, Pennsylvania for his very lucky daughter. The man even outfitted the doll house with real running water and gas lighting. You have to admire that insane level of commitment to realism.

coleman-doll-house

Another noteworthy reproduction is this mini version of King Louis XV’s study in the Palace of Versailles. The study took four years to create and includes a wood floor made up of more than 2,000 individual pieces of wood, plus a wooden desk composed of 36 different species of wood. The three dozen electric candles flicker to look like real candles.

louis-xv-study

As I looked around throughout the 38 rooms to find the absolute smallest miniatures in the place, I came across these little spools of thread, which are literally 2-3 millimeters wide. I’m not sure how you would even go about creating something so small.

miniature thread spools

The toy collection

While the museum continues to work on expanding its collection of modern toys, the older toys on display are just amazing. Any kid would love to have access to all of these classics! A lot of these are lots of toys I grew up with, including a complete collection of Star Wars action figures from 1977 to 1983.

toys-image

There’s a large Barbie exhibit with dolls from several different eras. The doll on the left is the original Barbie, issued in 1959. Also on display is this Lilli doll on the right from 1955 in Germany. One of the founders of Mattel brought home Lilli from a trip to Europe, and she became one of the inspirations for the creation of Barbie.

original-barbies

You probably never considered that toys were affected during the rationing of metal during World War II. Companies stopped producing little metal war figures and began constructing them out of sawdust and glue in a creative demonstration of American ingenuity.

sawdust-soldiers

Some of the older games weren’t always politically correct when it came to being sensitive to other cultures!

marblo-sombrero-games

Pee Wee’s playhouse! My favorites from the show were Miss Yvonne, Penny, Cowboy Curtis and Globey.

pee-wees-playhouse

Other cool sights in the toy section include Charlie’s Angels, Archie Bunker and Quick Draw McGraw board games, Tinkertoys, talking marionettes, and the country’s largest collection of marbles.

Visiting the Toy & Miniature Museum

Established in 1982, the museum is located in the Tureman Mansion on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City at 5235 Oak Street. As of this writing, the building is open from 10 to 4 Wednesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 on Sunday and the admission price is $7 for adults.

The museum has about 80,000 pieces, 90% of which are on display. For the latest details, see the official website.

What’s your favorite toy or miniature?

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

2 comments on “Life is tiny at the Toy & Miniature Museum

  1. I am not surprised that there’s a museum for miniatures. We actually have a shop of miniatures in a local historical area of town.

    I had a dollhouse my grandfather made me when I was very little. I was fascinated by the upholstered furniture and the wooden toilet that actually had a lid you could raise. I think it was wasted on a girl so young — except that I marveled at it. I never did play with it, just studied all the pieces and wondered how he made it all so small.
    Juliann recently posted..The Beaches of Vieques

    • If I was going to become an artist, I’d get involved in miniatures, since they’re so fascinating and fun. How cool that your grandfather made you a personalized dollhouse!

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