Laura Foreman didn’t realize that a visit Sunday to the Toy & Miniature Museum in Kansas City would be not just a chance to enjoy a collection, but a lesson in American history.
It was the last chance to take in that lesson until 2015.
The collection of more than 72,000 objects takes visitors on a tour of toys and other items over the last three centuries.
“There’s more American history here than I thought,” said Foreman, who recently moved from Los Angeles and now lives in Hyde Park.
The decades-old museum on the edge of the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus closed its doors Sunday afternoon for a long renovation. The museum has raised almost $9 million to replace the climate-control systems and renovate the exhibits.
It will reopen in early 2015 as the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.
Until then the extensive collection will go into storage while the interior of the building at 5235 Oak St. is remodeled and a new heating and cooling system is installed.
More than 400 people came for a last visit before the temporary closing, officials said.
One of them was Robert Clark of Raymore, who decided to brave the frigid temperatures Sunday so his 6-year-old daughter, Emma, could see the collection.
“She’s never been here, and she had two or three dollhouses of her own and loves to build furniture, so I thought she would like it,” Clark said. “And she digs it.”
Emma gave the museum a thumbs-up.
“I think it’s good,” she coyly whispered about the dollhouse collection. Aside from the dollhouses, Emma was equally excited about the museum’s massive marble collection, Clark said.
The decision to change the museum’s name reflects an effort to raise its profile regionally and nationally. The museum wants the same prominence that the National World War I Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art enjoy.
“We have a very special collection and one of the largest in the Midwest,” said Tony Julo, a museum spokesman. “The increased visibility with the name change will take us to a national stage.”
Foreman visited the museum with her daughter and two friends. They were impressed with its assortment of antique toys, table games, figurines, die-cast trains, large-scale dollhouses and fine-scale miniatures.
“It is amazing to see things from so many countries and the designs are similar,” said Jaden Fire, a classmate of Foreman’s daughter. “It is amazing that people are able to make things that are so small but yet they can include such intricate detail.”
The collection is housed in a Mediterranean-style mansion built in the early 1900s. The building is owned by UMKC, but the museum is operated by a nonprofit group.
Clark was pleased to make good on his plan to visit the museum before the items are mothballed for the next year or so.
“This is too much of a good thing to close for good,” Clark said.