All these dolls in this not-at-all creepy Denver museum need somewhere new to live

The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys is moving after 30 years.

I am a doll. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
I am a doll. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
Please come visit me. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Good day. We are the dolls.

We live in this lovely old house in City Park West.

The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

We’ve been here for 30 years. Our home is called the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys.

Dolls. (andrew Kenney/Denverite)
We love you. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Some of us come from far away and long, long ago. Miss Yokohama arrived from Japan with 57 of her sisters back in 1926. She’s made of ground oyster shells and glue — and wood!

Miss Hamako Yokohama at The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
Miss Hamako Yokohama at The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
… OK, enough of that.

This is Andy now. I was hanging out at the doll museum today because a.) I like weird places and b.) this weird place may soon have to move.

The museum has been tucked away on Gaylord Street for about 30 years, but its lease will likely expire this fall as the building’s owner, History Colorado, renovates the aging old house. DMMDT hopes to buy a permanent new home, but it may become a traveling show for a while in between.

Anyway, it’s a really interesting little place, and I’d recommend you get yourself out to see it before the end of October. Tickets are $6 for adults, and they also accept donations. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday with limited hours.

A dollhouse window with a view of the real thing. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
A dollhouse window with a view of the real thing. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Besides having more dolls than I ever wanted to see in one place, the place is filled with truly ornate dollhouses, miscellaneous tiny works of art and random toys from all eras. There are 20,000 items in all, and people try to donate about 500 more each week. (Apparently everyone has been hoarding tiny things.)

A southwestern dollhouse. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
A southwestern dollhouse. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

A lot of the prime material is created by local artists. Denver is a major player in the tiny crafts scene, thanks in part to the museum’s presence, as director Wendy Littlepage tells me.

“We have artists in their 70s and 80s and 90s, who are still growing as artists,” she says. There’s also some diversity to the craft, including southwestern style dollhouses and crafts by indigenous people. I found the non-Victorian architecture to be somewhat less unnerving.

“Part of dollhouses’ appeal is, ‘Could I see myself living there?’ And a lot of them are pretty fussy,” Littlepage says.

Tiny furniture in a tiny house. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
Tiny furniture in a tiny house. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

And here’s something that surprised me: Interest in the craft is growing. The museum’s visitorship — currently about 14,000 people per year — has doubled in six years, Littlepage says. A lot of those new people are younger than 32, she notes. She cites millennials’ taste for crafts and craftsmanship.

The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

If you can, finagle a tour. Littlepage has a million tiny facts and theories. In the toy section, she notes that Barbie’s original Dreamhouse was a lot more reasonable and a lot less pink than its later iterations.

Barbie's previous dreamhouse. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
Barbie’s previous Dreamhouse, which adults can’t seem to keep their grubby hands off. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

On the other end of the spectrum, the oldest material dates to the 1700s and 1800s. Some are so finely detailed that you could imagine a little person living in them, which again is somewhat horrifying to me.

The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

There’s lots more to see in the museum — probably a solid hour of entertainment –but I’ll leave that for your visit. Also worth noting: They have craft days. Keep an eye on their events calendar for your chance to make your very own little thing.

Wendy Littlepage shows off a festooned acorn. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
Wendy Littlepage shows off a festooned acorn. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
As for the building:

History Colorado is soon to begin extensive renovations of the 118-year-old building, a Dutch Colonial Revival known as the Pearce-McAllister Cottage.

“The property will need exterior and interior preservation work. Later this year, we will begin with the exterior,” wrote spokeswoman Brooke Gladstone in an email.

That project has been in the works for three years, and the organization has been sure to include the museum, neighbors and others in the talks, the statement noted.

I can't wait to see you at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, my dear. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)
I can’t wait to see you at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.