Museum of the Moment: The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

August 15, 2019

Well into its third decade operating in the community, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures has steadily expanded its offerings and its collection, blossoming into one of Kansas City’s most fascinating (and fun-loving) museums.


The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures began, fittingly, as a small-scale operation. Opened in 1982 on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the museum—then known as the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City—showcased the vast personal collections of lifelong friends Barbara Marshall and Mary Francis Harris.

Expansions in 1985 and 2004 gave the museum more space to operate and added to its massive library of artifacts. Then, three years after a 2012 capital campaign, the museum reopened under its current title with enhancements to the building and exhibits.

As a result, T/m now proudly touts one of the country’s largest antique toy collections on public display, as well as the largest fine-scale miniature collection in the world. So, small-scale no longer.

The Modern Museum

Despite these three expansions and a collection numbering in the tens of thousands (more than 72,000, to be more exact), T/m’s mission remains the same as it always has: to inspire wonder in its visitors. There’s beauty in this, in that it informs how children have played through the ages, and, perhaps, how these youngsters experienced the world through their play.

For every paper doll from mid-century America and miniature scene depicting a Victorian home, there’s a board game for the whole family, each a glimpse into the leisure lives of everyday people throughout the decades.

The museum keeps its programming fresh with rotating exhibits that highlight various themes and topics. Current exhibits include The Doll Gallery, which features toys dating back from the 18th century to mid-20th century, and A Space of Our Own: Dollhouses of the 20th Century, which uses T/m’s collection to examine the gradual transformation of dollhouses dating from 1900 through ‘99—plus experience the nine-foot-tall Coleman Dollhouse, which is large enough for children and adults to enter.

Find hours, admissions, a full list of daily events and more essential need-to-know info by visiting T/m’s website.