Wenham Museum

We spontaneously went to the Wenham Museum on Wednesday. It’s in -er- Wenham and we were up that way for the Mass Audubon Toddler Class. What a thoroughly lovely experience! It’s a super child friendly place (a changing table in the men’s restroom always gets bonus points from me) and contains 50% trains and 50% dolls. I’m exaggerating of course, but I’m pretty sure Alex had the best train experience of his life and is currently making choo-choo sounds in his sleep.

The museum has a gallery with a big collection of tin cars and trains, a hands on train, and hands on race car. We spent a good half hour here jockeying for the driver position in the car. Everything seems put together really lovingly and passion. It transfers. Jen and Alex were super careful touching everything that was allowed to be touched. Just as a warning, the train table in the doll gallery makes an eerie mooing sound when activated. Alex said he was a bit scared and wanted to go somewhere else when we found that.

The trains downstairs are spectacular. There are ten different, huge model layouts. Lots of detail. Lots of love. Alex and Jen spent about an hour in this room.

Visitors of all ages delight in the Bennett E. Merry Train Gallery featuring 10 operating model layouts—in G, O, HO, N, and Z gauges—with 12 trains that operate with the push of a button. Railroad artifacts, memorabilia, large-scale models and antique toy trains are also on display. Most importantly, model train and railroad experts are on hand to answer your questions, discuss scenery building and layout construction, and offer advice to railroad hobbyists.

There are lots of dolls (1000 to 5000 on display) from every walk of life:

The dolls in the museum’s world-renowned collection offer insights into the values, manners, and mores of past generations; interpret the costumes and cultures of native and foreign peoples; and reflect the aesthetics and history of the international doll industry. They range from Egyptian funerary figures (c. 1500 BC) to 20th-century collectible dolls, including 19th-century porcelain European play dolls, international travel dolls, “Whimsies,” American cloth dolls, and rare 19th-century Native American and Inuit dolls. Not to be missed is the Elizabeth Richards Horton International Doll Collection—one of only two collections in the world to remain intact for more than 100 years—containing dolls from turn-of-the-century celebrities and royals, and Miss Columbia, the doll who traveled around the world from 1900 to 1902.

A rotating permanent exhibition features approximately 1,000 of the 5,000 dolls in the Wenham Museum’s world-famous doll collection. Included are fine examples of both French and German Bisque dolls, dolls of unusual media, unique artist’s figures, and dolls by 19th- and 20th-century American doll makers. Some of the many highlights of the exhibit are a late 18th-century wooden “Suzanna Holyoke” doll with original costume, late 19th-century bisque costumed mechanical dolls, dolls by Joel Ellis, Grenier and Izannah Walker and examples of 20th- century collectible dolls by Vogue, Madame Alexander and the Ideal Toy Company.

Permanently displayed in the Osgood Gallery is the International Doll Collection (IDC), the original nucleus of the museum’s doll collection, donated in 1922 by Elizabeth Richards Horton, a former resident of the Claflin-Richards House. On behalf of charities all over the world, Mrs. Horton would plan an itinerary a year in advance, pack her dolls, and ship them off to be exhibited as a charitable fundraising event. Over the years, in an effort to expand her collection, Mrs. Horton wrote to officials, celebrities, and the crown heads of Europe to request donations to her collection. Many personalities of note responded and the collection still contains dolls from Queen Victoria, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra, Admiral Byrd and Cecil Rhodes, among others. A highlight of the IDC is Miss Columbia, the museum’s most famous doll. A cloth Columbian doll designed and manufactured by Emma and Marietta Adams of Oswego, N.Y., Miss Columbia traveled around the world by herself from 1900 to 1902 raising funds for children’s charities. She is displayed with her travel diary and souvenirs. In the year 2000, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of her voyage, a reproduction Miss Columbia was sent around the United States to elementary schools with her own curriculum and Web-based journal.

Jen was a little bit young at almost 14 months, but she also had a great time playing with the tea set out on one of the kids play tables. The other big hit with us was the Family Discovery Center. Lots of hands-on toys to explore. This room changes, but currently has toys from Post-WW-II (1946 to 1964) and lots of Lincoln Logs.

Experience the childhood of the Baby Boomers in an interactive display of real and reproduction toys and artifacts of daily life of the 1950s and 60s. Children have fun dressing up as cowboys and cowgirls, playing in a post WWII Tract House, and shop at the local grocery store or challenge parents and grandparents to a game of Candy Land, Rock-Em-Sock-Em or build with Lincoln Logs. Children take turns dialing a rotary phone and using a typewriter. See a display of toys from the museum’s collection including a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist puppet, Ginny and Chatty Cathy dolls and more memorabilia from the 50s and 60s.

The museum is located at 132 Main Street, Wenham. It is open from 10am to 4pm daily and is accessible by public transport (:-D)

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