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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Musings on Museum Movings


Musings on Museum Movings


Yesterday finished cleaning and emptying the old museum.  I will miss that space, cozy and in the hub of our College Hill, nee Hilltop neighborhood.  My friends Michelle, Diane and their shop Vintage Rose made it all possible, along with Mr. Joe K, the best landlord in the world. Jorje, our friend and colleague, did our graphics, and our friend and colleague Loey brought visitors and lots of moral support.


We had an amazing ribbon cutting on Lincoln’s birthday, also my grandparents’ 92d wedding anniversary. Two dolls from my grandma’s collection started mine when I was age 3. They married in Paris, and maybe that’s why I have a thing for all kinds of French dolls.  I remembered the city well from when I was nine, and the awesome dolls lining the walls of one airport shop after another, and the great food.  To a nine year old, that meant hot dogs stuffed with gruyere cheese.  Awesome!


We now are moving into our new building, with dolls, toys, books, models, miniatures, vintage clothing, paper dolls, trains, paper airplanes, and other childhood memorabilia emerging from the wood work of their various secure, secret locations.  Except, of course, for those that were moving from the old museum to the new.


We’ve had more than our share of challenges as a non-profit in the Covid 19 era, but so have so many of the rest of us, we soldier on.  My husband and my cousins Steve and Lisa moved our cabinets and cases to our new facility, and did it in just under 3.5 hours! Our friends Frankie and Marylou have been awesome in helping us to get the building ready, and my friend Kathy helped me pack up dolls to take.


My only regret is that Aunt Connie and my Mom aren’t here to see this, and my Dad and uncles who provided so many of the dolls and other things. My Uncle Tom was an artist who quickly learned doll repair.  He brought me at least one doll every weekend from Peoria, where he worked in a studio.  He also gave me the dolls he brought back from Korea and Japan when he served in the Korean War. My Uncle Jim drove me around to all sorts of doll shows, and kept my secrets re what I paid for what.  My grandfather would drop into Woolworth’s where I looked for doll clothes, pay my bill, and leave to continue his walks. My grandmother who was a seamstress by trade made doll clothes in all sizes; she hated naked dolls lying around neglected.  Her father died when she was very young, and she didn’t have dolls of her own.  As an adult, she loved them very much and had a collection my family brought from all over the world.  


My Dad brought dolls from all his travels, and drove us to antique malls, yard sales, and dolls shows.  He built doll houses and doll shelves, and showed great tolerance when a Barbie case would open in the middle of O’Hare airport, spilling it’s contents, or when a doll hat blew out the window and certain six year old cried all the way to Albuquerque.


My mother was my “doll buddy” and partner in crime.  She went to look for dolls when I was in school and couldn’t go, and she dressed them and fixed them, and knitted for them.  Every Christmas a doll would go missing till Christmas Even when she/he would emerge with a new outfit.


She and I decorated our red doll house mansion that Dad created, called Plantagenet House.  We made all kinds of accessories, and Mom made curtains, rugs, and bedspreads.  She crocheted miniature rugs that emulated the larger one’s her grandmother used to make, and knitted tiny pillows and comforters.


My parents made it possible for me to buy this building, our former branch library.  They let me keep dolls at their house, and encouraged me all the years I planned this project.  I miss them very much, and never dreamed I would launch this project as an orphan, but here I am.  But for my cousins and one aunt by marriage, I have no other family, my husband and our son notwithstanding.


The library itself was one of our favorite places.  My husband and I often rode bikes there to check out books and to grab a bottle of pop from the old machine that was once outside.  I bought many books as gifts at the used book store there, and I lectured about dolls to The Friends of the Library.  I used to dream the library housed dolls as well as books, and well, dreams to come true.


We hope to be open Halloween, but barring that, Small Business Saturday.  We have a lot of work to do, including enclosing shelves in glass and setting up our gift shop. I’ve spent nearly every day since August 7 moving carloads and cartloads of times, packing, setting up triage for things that need repair, doing paperwork, and drinking a lot of water and Gatorade.  It’s exhausting, and I keep getting hurt or tripping over something.  I’m deep cleaning at home after I move dolls from there, and try to keep living in general against current restrictions and a Derecho storm that nearly finished our trees.


Losing my aunt unexpectedly mid June, just after both our birthdays was unbearable.  I miss her; she lived with us and planned to work in the museum setting up doll houses.  She loved the old museum and was in the ribbon cutting, too.  She often chose a doll or two to take home for awhile, so she could do their hair.  Her death devastated us, but I try to move forward.


You have to keep going.


Our collection represents prehistory to the present, from every corner of the globe and beyond.  We have dolls that were in other museums, rare antiques, and contemporary trends.  We feature paper airplanes from the collection of Dr. Roald Tweet, Augustana College and a doll that belonged to Shirley Temple, whom I met in person.  There are robots, Tonka trucks, trains, collectibles and many holiday items.


We will have a complete library of doll and doll related books, including some I have written, as well as other classic books and the former county law library.  For our modest admission, you can come and spend the day reading and enjoying the dolls.  There will be some interactive activities for kids as well.


We appreciate monetary donations made out to the museum, but will charge a modest admission to help keep us going:  $3 adults, $2 seniors and veterans, $1 children under 12.  We will have special days for donations only admission, or free days in honor of certain events.


Our new address will be 3059 30th Street, Rock Island, IL 61201, and our number is 309-721-9882.  Our mailing address is 4 Hillcrest Court, Rock Island, IL 61201.  We have a Pinterest Board, and a Blog, both American Doll and Toy Museum.  We’re still on Twitter as Antique Doll and Dr. E’s Doll Museum.


We still have our Dr. E’s Doll Museum Blog and our Facebook page by that name, but we have a Facebook page American Doll and Toy Museum.  On Instagram, we are under ellen_tsagaris.   We’re also on Flickr under my name as well as Tumblr.


Via social media or live, I look forward to meeting everyone.  We’ll observe Covid 19 precautions and will require masks when we do open.


Please be patient, good things are following.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Mechanical Musings; Early Automatons and Mechanical Dolls


Mechanical Musings; Early Automatons and Mechanical Dolls


When I wrote With Love from Tin Lizzie: A History of Metal Dolls . . . I said that the history of mechanical dolls went as far back as Ancient Egypt.  Yet, the history of all things mechanical, including dolls, toys and robots, really dates back around 3.3 million years.  That’s how old the first tools allegedly are.  Fire, discovered later , led to making better, stronger tools.  Somewhere along the line, the invention of the wheel made it possible to invent even better tools and machines.  Our automatons, robots, Mamma dolls and mechanical babies share this Stone Age heritage.


This thought came to me as I was working in our new, permanent museum building.  Many of the objects in the museum collection are mechanical.   The thing about hard, physical labor is that it gets one thinking.  I felt like an automaton myself most of this week, driving car loads of dolls, toys, books, and seasonal items to the new museum.  We had a terrible storm last Monday with 100 mph winds that lead to power outages, some still going on.


I spent most of the week working in darkness in the new building, with no AC, either.  We had power and AC in the old museum.  It was cool enough, and there was enough light coming through the windows.  The important job of moving and sorting is taking precedence over everything else.  Today there was a break, and we drove to the nearest university town, my husband to work, and me to wander.


We hope to be open by Halloween in our new, final location.  Barring that, I’m going for another Small Business Saturday Grand Opening.


One important object is a shadow box of a miniature doll museum, a box meant to make our wish come true.  Margaret Grace addresses the tradition in one of her miniature murder series, great reads one and all.  I hope there will be many more in the series.


So, we go on.  If you don’t hear from me, it is because I’m working very hard on the museum, and on my aunt’s estate.  We lost her suddenly in June, and nothing has been easy since.


Be safe, and to those affected by last week’s storms, I hope you are save, your property is intact, the tree limbs are cleared, and your power and cell phones are working again.



Thursday, August 6, 2020

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Museum Musings

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Museum Musings:  Here are some notes to let you all know I'm still alive.  We had a death in the family in June, devastating and unexpected.  We lost my...

Sunday, July 12, 2020

We’re no Doll Snobs

We’re no Doll Snobs

As we all continue to face Covid19 challenges and life challenges in general, we find ways to move on.  For us at American Doll & Toy Museum, it means literally moving to our new building, the former 30/31 Branch Library.

I admit I have my hands full; nothing moves as quickly as we’d like.  I’m paying more rent for the current building than I thought, but I don’t mind because I have great landlords and a good location.  The challenge is packing, and not having anywhere to stack boxes that are packed up.  I try to work them into the doll landscape, so to speak, but I’m open only by appointment now, till late summer or early fall when we’ll open our new larger location.

We've just suffered a devastating, unexpected death in our family, and I'm the trustee/executor for that situation, too.  Add slow banks, long distance, and estate bills up, and it would be a recipe for a nervous breakdown were it not for the doll museum and the hopes I have for it.

Dolls and toys seem to crawl out of the woodwork at home, but it’s a nice problem to have.  All this gives me time to look at the dolls and toys, and to ponder.  

It occurs to me that we do represent playthings from prehistory to now.  We have everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, and while we are probably not the largest doll collection in the world, we come close.  Dolls are humanities historians, as are the toys that reside with them.  We have examples representing Neanderthal goddess figures, to the current dolls on the market.  Many of our residents are museum pieces, but others are beloved examples from my childhood and my friends’ childhood.

We’ve had wonderful people donate their treasures to us for safekeeping; we don’t sell our donations, by the way.  What I sell in my Etsy store and in our modest gift shop are items I have made, or bought especially for the museum.  Their sale helps to keep us going.

We have kept the faith and a light on in our doll house windows, though we were forced to close nearly four months after we opened.  We will keep going.  This has been my dream and passion since age 4, can’t give up now.

I enjoy all kinds of dolls and toys.  I have always been eclectic in my taste, and the same is true of my collecting.   Every toy tells a story; a museum should represent all those stories, not just one.  We enjoy our French bisques and German characters, our 1860 rubber doll, our  Liberty of London Henry VIII and his wives, but we also love our Barbies, vintage to current, our Frozen Charlottes, our dime
store plastic babies from the sixties, homemade wrecks, well loved plush, and even Living Dead Dolls and My Little Pony friends.

Too many doll diva arias spoil the hobby.  It’s bad enough we have this creepy doll garbage floating around. We don’t have to do it to ourselves. I get turned off by hearing once too often that someone who collects dolls isn’t interested in other’s collections because they don’t collect that type of doll. You don’t have to own it to educate yourself in the hobby, or be aware of what others like.  

You don’t have to disrespect what someone else enjoys.  That’s just cruel.  If someone likes mid-century mass produced bisque dolls in frilly outfits, that’s his/her call.  If another collector likes Gene, or bean bag plush, or played with Barbies dressed in home made outfits, that also his/her call.   Were I forced to specialize, I would center on antiques, especially French fashion, metal heads, and international costume dolls, but it would be a hard choice.  

If I had too much of one type of doll or toy, I’d be bored.  I’d have what Helen Young, noted doll author and artist would call, an accumulation.  My dolls don’t bore me.  My toys and the books connected with them intrigue me.  

So, as we move forward, we hope to have stir happy childhood memories, and to share our collection with kids “from one to ninety two.”  We hope to teach about the cultures in our community, and about the cultures of all the people of the world.  We hope to inspire others to study and to collect, and we invite everyone to use our many books for their research, too.

Our admission will be modest, and will be waived for certain holidays.  We will also host programs, and classes on dolls and toys open to the public.  We will partner with other businesses and nonprofits, too. We are on GoFundMe should anyone care to donate. So, stay tuned, we’re just about to wind our music box up, and we plan to play a very long tune!!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Dolls are Moving soon to their Forever Home!

The Dolls are Moving soon to their Forever Home!

It’s happening; the citizens of American Doll & Toy Museum are moving to their permanent home around late July 2020!  They’ve traveled a life time, but are getting ready for the journey to the former 30/31 library building.

Rock Island Library Plan Includes 30/31 Branch Closure | WVIK

When I was little, I would ride my bike to this branch library. There was a soda machine, a popular draw, and it was across from my grade school, and later, my church.  My best friend lived down street, too.  As they say, location! Location! Location! We had a great time.  Both of us loved to read, and it was a great place to also see friends and neighbors.

During the summer, my mom and I were frequent visitors, checking out lots of books to read.  I looked up all kinds of books on dolls, dinosaurs, and Joan of Arc.

Shelves in our new Museum

One of the rooms in our new Museum

Main floor of the new Museum with shelves and study stations

Places for sitting and reading, as well as observing dolls

Room for programs and special events
More Shelves

Doors and safety

Little Kitchen

Panorama view of floor

We always washed off the plastic book covers with a paper towel slightly damp with soap and water.  We were ahead of our time.

My husband grew up nearby, and he also loved going to the library.  We could walk or ride bikes; it was a kid’s destination.

Today, American Doll & Toy Museum hopes to become a kid’s destination, again, for kids from 1 to 100!  We will also have books, including some of my beloved law books, formerly in our county law library.  Of course, I’ll have books and magazines on dolls, fiction and non fiction, as well as art books, craft books, books on countries and cultures where the dolls originate and more.

Miss Revlon and similar dolls

International dolls including Small World India in front of one of our houses

Celebrity dolls and toys

Micro-mini dolls under dome, a sushi dinner, more International, Barbie, and celebrity dolls

17th c. Historical doll, Scarlett, and more historical and celebrity dolls.
17th c. Doll by Marin of Spain,. formerly in Boca Raton
Children's Museum.
Georgie Fay, from Mikki Brantley, Ashton Drake Artist.  

One of our costumes

Minis, vintage tins, dolls from 20s to present in case behind

Robot with doll house

Father Tuck Paper Dolls

Vintage artist African American Doll

Vintage felt artist doll

Dolls being packed

While the books are not for check out, patrons can stay and read, and use the books on the premises as long as they like.  All for a very low admission price, with discounts for kids and seniors, and special days for Vets.

There will be days when admission will also be free, and programs that will benefit other non profits in our community.

Colleen Moore is not for sale, but the paper airplanes are

One of our board games

With love from Tin Lizzie; one of our metal heads

Artist dolls and modern bisques

Present location with patriotic window

Francesca and friends

For sale in our gift shop; see Dr. Es Toy Museum on

Our gift shop will also expand, with craft kits, books, doll related items, vintage jewelry, vintage toys, and more.

So, the antique dolls are packing their bags, including the china heads and antique bisques, the action figures and heroes are taking flight, Barbie is finding space for her dream house, and the toy soldiers are forming battalions.

Raggedy Ann, Shirley Temple, Patsy,  Tammy, Wendykins, Cissy, Jill and Ginny, G.I. Joe, Skippy, all the Ancient dolls, the International dolls, bears and stuffed animals are packing their bags.  Edith the Lonely doll arrived just in time for the move, and our French Fashion girls are gathering their trousseaux.

Our paper dolls, books, old cases, and doll clothes, our board games, marbles, jacks, model ships and paper airplanes are all getting ready to go.

We will miss our current location, and our dear friends in the neighborhood, but we are just up the street, and can do more for our community in this larger space.  We hope to continue to be part of the College Hill Association, too.

We’ll be open till July 1, by chance or appointment.  Please pardon are dust, as I continue to organize and to pack.  Call 309-721-9882 for an appointment.  Until we move, admission is discounted to $1 or free will donation.

In our gift shop; see Dr. Es Toy

For sale in our gift shop

An example of the books for sale in our gift shop

Vintage miniature figure in our gift shop.  Great for doll houses.