Sure, you had your Barbies, your little green soldiers and your cardboard Monopoly game.
But did you have two fleas — yes, fleas — dressed in clothes? Or a Victorian swimming doll that does the breast stroke? Or a dollhouse with the world’s smallest grandfather clock that tells time?
But they exist among tens of thousands of toys and miniatures, both rare and common, that fascinated visitors Saturday when doors reopened at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, 5235 Oak St.
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The museum, unveiled after an 18-month, $8 million renovation, displays about 21,000 miniatures and many of its 51,000 toys in reworked displays and a better climate-controlled environment.
It was a painstaking changeover that required each piece to be individually wrapped, labeled and put into one of Kansas City’s limestone cave storage facilities for safekeeping. That process was later reversed.
The miniature collection of co-founder Barbara Hall Marshall and toy collection of Mary Harris Francis now have been augmented to take visitors through a world of nostalgia.
“In addition to the historic, our patrons clearly told us that they wanted to see the toys they grew up with,” said Cassie Mundt, community development coordinator for the museum. “So we’ve added iconic toys from the ’50s, ’60s and other decades up to about 2000.”
Malissa Knapp of Parkville, visiting with her family, said the old toys presented an opportunity to say, “Look, here’s what your grandmother played with.”
The new displays include groupings with such labels as Toys From the Attic and Comfort Toys, a section that, of course, includes teddy bears. The redesigned showcases allow some hands-on activity and give more information about the provenance — the history — of the items.
“The people who have been here before are saying that they really like the engaging nature of the new exhibits,” said museum director Jamie Berry. “It’s more of a multigenerational experience with more things that people can touch and interact with.”
The newest miniature display, known as a fine-scale miniature, is an Art Deco jewelry store completed in 2011. It was commissioned by co-founder Marshall in honor of the museum’s 30th anniversary.
“It’s a beautiful period reproduction that gives us a chance to experience what that era looked like,” said visitor Suzanne Rush, who came from Farley, Mo., with her two granddaughters, who had faces pressed to the glass display case. “It’s just remarkable.”
Most of the miniatures are quality works made on a 1-to-12-inch scale, but some pieces are as small as 1 to 48. Some of the artists do patent research to help their replicas of furniture, machinery or toys be exact as possible.
The museum, which had two previous expansions from the mansion on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus where it was founded, also used the renovation period to designate itself as a national museum. Mundt said no government action was required.
“We have the world’s largest and finest collection of miniatures, with many of them one-of-a-kind pieces commissioned by Barbara Marshall,” Mundt said, adding that “several other museums with collections like ours have closed in recent years and the pieces have gone into private hands, so our collection is more important now.”
The two-story museum, which has an operating budget of more than $1 million a year, is 80 percent funded by an endowment. It has eight full-time and two part-time employees and about 40 volunteers to keep it open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except for Tuesdays, when it’s closed.
Some first-floor rooms of the original mansion also have been spruced up to use for special events or education space. The renovation included new audio visual capabilities.
Mundt said the changes included space for rotating exhibits that are expected to draw returning visitors. Current temporary exhibits include Japanese dolls and pedal cars.