Dolls on the move

Published 9:16 am Saturday, August 21, 2010

Graphic by Kathy Johnson

Large collection of dolls in the process of moving to a new home

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.

“It’s a win-win situation for us. Now more people can see our collection,” is the comment of Jean Jordan, president of the board of directors of Albert Lea’s Story Lady Doll & Toy Museum. And the situation she refers to is the move now underway as the museum on North Broadway Avenue is preparing to close and its extensive collection of mostly dolls and some toys is being moved to the Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library and Village on North Bridge Avenue next to the fairgrounds entrance.

Jean Jordan, left, president of the board of directors for the Story Lady Doll & Toy Museum, and Pat Mulso, show one of the display cases and dolls that has already been moved from North Broadway Avenue to the new location on North Bridge Avenue in the Freeborn County Historical Museum. -- Ed Shannon/Albert Lea Tribune

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“We already have a collection of dolls and toys on display,” Pat Mulso said. She’s the executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library and Village.

“Now we’re going to expand our displays, but not everything will be shown. We’ll be rotating the displays,” Mulso explained regarding the addition of about 1,500 dolls, plus some toys and other items. Mulso added that the future planned expansion of the museum will include extra space for the Story Lady collections.

Pat Mulso, right, executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library and Village, points to the doll representing the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis. This is one of the historic dolls formerly a part of the Story Lady Doll & Toy Museum. On the left is Jean Jordan from the Story Lady organization. -- Ed Shannon/Albert Lea Tribune

Jordan said the Story Lady’s board of directors made a unanimous decision in June to close the North Broadway Avenue gift store and museum by the end of August. The move to the historical museum location started in July and has included display cases, historical and current dolls, toys, stuffed animals and even a few bears.

The Story Lady Doll & Toy Museum opened in April 1996 with a core collection of 400 storybook dolls. Its name is derived from a retired school librarian, the late Norma Robson. She was a doll collector who presented programs for area children and became known as “The Story Lady.”

One of the exhibits that’s already been moved from the Story Lady Doll & Toy Museum to its new location at the Freeborn County Historical Museum is a carousel of wood-carved dancing dolls. This mechanical merry-go-round was created by Andrew Herth of the Emmons area in the 1930s. -- Ed Shannon/Albert Lea Tribune

In time, the collection grew to feature storybook dolls from Pinocchio, Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood and other tales, plus contemporary literature like Madeline, Stega Nona, Ramona and Pooh Bear. There are also dolls dating back to the 1800s, including German and French dolls, china heads, celluloid and tin heads and a collection of ethnic dolls.

“Everyone is happy that we’ve found a good home for our collection. Pat and the museum folks have been great to work with. Volunteers on both sides, doll museum and museum, have really worked together to make this move possible,” Jordan commented.

“Having climate control in the museum is a big plus for this (new) collection,” Mulso said.

Next: An interesting part of the Story Lady collection is based on a group of drawings and a coloring book created by a former Albert Lea mayor.