C.K. in K.C.: The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

If you like tiny objects and children’s toys, this is the place for you.


by Christina Kirk, Page Designer

The Toy and Miniatures Museum, perched on a hill above the UMKC law school at 5235 Oak St., possessed an unexpected sleek and modern exterior. This baffled me as I pulled in because, as I told junior Madi Winfield, “I thought this was a frat house” – which, in hindsight, would not make much sense either. I became informed of the existence of this museum sometime between my freshman and sophomore year, as I frequently passed a sign that branded the museum’s name, piquing my interest. This museum recently underwent a year long series of renovations, re-opening Aug. 1 as the world’s largest fine-scale miniature collection and one of the nation’s largest antique collections. So, with this knowledge of the museum’s prestige in hand and previous experience with other museums’ policies, I was less than surprised when the woman at the front desk informed me that filming was not allowed but non-flash photography was. However, I was a bit more surprised to learn that we only had 30 minutes to explore the “world’s largest collection” of tiny items and “one of the nation’s largest” collections of old items.

As you can tell from my lackluster opinion pre-museum, I was not expecting much more than small furniture sets and some old toys. And even though that is pretty much all that the museum had to offer, it was not just small furniture sets and old toys.

The first room Madi and I entered was drastically different from what I was envisioning. First of all, just in that room, there was a lot of tiny items. A lot. I knew it was the world’s largest collection, but I didn’t think that title was all that difficult to attain. The first things we saw was an unbelievably intricately painted dish set that we stared at for at least two minutes exclaiming things like, “How do you paint on something that small?” and “They’re so cute!” (If you’re wondering how dishes can be cute, please visit this museum, and you’ll understand).

Miniature dishes rest on stands at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. photo by Christina Kirk

This pattern continued with the rest of the miniatures on the first floor, especially with the brilliantly designed dollhouses and their innards. Every single one of these dollhouses was better designed than any home I have visited. By the time we were finished peering into the dollhouses that adorned the middle section of the massive first floor, I felt something comparable to jealousy of the dolls living in these houses.

A dollhouse at the National Museum of Toys and miniatures. photo by Christina Kirk
A dollhouse at the National Museum of Toys and miniatures lights up at the press of a button. photo by Christina Kirk

Somewhere around the 15-minute mark of our time-limited excursion, Madi and I decided to head up the staircase to the collection of toys. It took us two minutes alone to walk up the single flight of stairs due to the cute and clever toy posters that lined the walls.

A glass door led us into the floor, and we were greeted by a respectable collection of kid-sized vehicles, all drivable. The mini car show ended with the preeminent kids’ car – an authentic 1969 Big Wheel. Madi and I remarked that despite the near 50 years that have passed since its conception, its design has not changed much.

Many toy cars are displayed in the first room on the second floor. photo by Christina Kirk

From there, we walked through a room that detailed the evolution of some toys. In one glass case sat video game consoles side by side while a collection of My Little Ponies sat directly above. A couple of informational videos accompanied some toys in this room.

A couple rooms later we landed ourselves in my personal favorite room. This was my favorite because they had 1) one of those cutouts that you could stick your face in and get pictures and 2) a large labyrinth tabletop game that Madi and I may have wasted a bit too much time playing. If everything else I have talked about disinterests you, this room alone is worth coming. I had too much fun in here.

Junior Madi Winfield poses for a picture in a cutout
Junior Madi Winfield poses for a picture in a cutout. photo by Christina Kirk

While we were engrossed in the labyrinth game, a voice over the intercom informed us of the ten minutes we had left to go through the rest of the museum. So we Zayned it to the adjoining room which had a very, very cool optical illusion-type attraction. Opposite of this was a room dedicated to more dollhouses and dolls. This was my second favorite room mainly because of one dollhouse that was modeled after a local Ward Parkway home. A message inside the dollhouse read, “To Janice Jennifer and Julie with love from your daddy,” which, admittedly, almost made me cry. As the museum would be closing within a couple minutes, we descended the staircase and perused the gift shop before leaving.

A dollhouse modeled after a Ward Parkway home
A dollhouse modeled after a Ward Parkway home. photo by Christina Kirk.
A comparison of the home and the dollhouse
A comparison of the dollhouse and the home on which it is based. photo by Christina Kirk

Here’s a tip: if you do end up going, allow yourself an hour or more. The museum is huge, and Madi and I missed a lot of cool things because we had to rush through. I highly recommend visiting this museum. It’s much more interesting than you may assume, and the admission is only $5.

That’s it for this week. See you guys soon (hopefully with a video this time)!