Small Talk Tag: Barbara Marshall

Happy Birthday Toy and Miniature Museum

Museum Grand Opening 1982

Who didn’t love “show and tell?!” Bringing a prized baseball card or pet hamster to share with classmates gave us that warm, fuzzy feeling that we now know as pride and happiness. We’re guessing that’s exactly what museum cofounders Mary Harris Francis (second from the left) and Barbara Marshall (first from the left) felt when they opened the Toy and Miniature Museum this week in 1982.

Both collected small things: Francis coveted antique toys, imperfect in scale and well-loved. Marshall sought artfully-crafted, fine-scale miniatures. After years of acquiring, they opened the museum in the Tureman mansion on the University of Missouri- Kansas City campus in order to share their vast collections.

Since then, the Toy and Miniature Museum has expanded twice, received donations from over 2,000 individuals, broken a Guinness World Record, and become a local treasure. As we transition to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, we look forward to a future filled with “show and tell.”

Where it all began…

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T/m’s large fine-scale miniature collection began with this three-inch rocking chair. One of our founders, Barbara Marshall, came across the subterranean storefront of Eric Pearson while shopping in New York City in the 1950s. Pearson began making miniatures twenty years earlier after a successful career as a full-sized cabinetmaker.

He had many loyal customers: Narcissa Thorne contracted him to make several pieces for her European and American rooms now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. And he produced numerous custom-made furniture pieces for Eloise Kruger now housed in the Kruger Collection at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Pearson is often credited as the first professional fine-scale miniature artist in the United States.

What is a fine-scale miniature? Miniatures are accurate, scaled artworks of full-size pieces. Often they are made out of the same material as the full-size works and operate in the same way! Most of our collection is in 1:12 scale, meaning one inch in the miniature equals one foot in the full-scale piece.