Where Have All the Dolls Gone?

Part Two

This post is a continuation of the previous one and lists a few more doll museums in Australia that I have discovered.


Grand Shirl’s Doll and Toy Museum

This museum is in Maryborough, 255 km north of Brisbane. It is run by Grand Shirl from her home. Maryborough incidentally is also the birthplace of P.L Travers who wrote the Mary Poppins books. Here is a review from a visitor.

This is a world class antique doll and toy museum, the best I have seen (compared with one in Vancouver, Canada as the most distant). An absolute gem. Shirley’s knowledge is awesome and she freely and lovingly shares this.This caring lady and her daughter cater for groups from primary school age to twilight years. Do call if interested.

The Redland Museum is not a doll museum but a social history museum in Cleveland about 40 minutes drive from Brisbane. It does house a collection of  dolls which once belonged to a local lady called Grace James who had made all the dolls costumes. This is what the website has to say about the collection.

Grace made 14 overseas trips and began to record her experiences by making dolls dressed in replicas of fashions and styles authentic to the era and countries she had visited, spending many hours at the task.  The collection numbers 100 with each doll meticulously dressed in different styles ranging from about 1800 through to the 1960s.  Some styles are taken from movies such as My Fair Lady or based on historic figures such as Madame Pompadour.  Each dress is handmade and includes all the appropriate accessories, such as shoes, bags, jewellery and hats.  These were all dressed between 1974 and 1984.

Western Australia

Not strictly a doll museum “The Miniature Soldier Museum” in Hyden WA is home to over 10,000 handmade figures created by Alex Smith. Also featured is the doll collection of  Yvonne Mouritz which includes many dolls in national costumes. The museum is in south-west WA about four hours drive from Perth.

The West Australian Museum in Perth has the Edith Cowan University Museum of Childhood Collection. Here is an excerpt from the description.

The collection is representative of children’s lives through different periods, environments, socio-economic circumstances and culturally diverse backgrounds. It contains several collections that are immensely significant in their own right, most notably the Riley Family Collection. This near complete collection of 150 toys belonged to the six children (b.1887-97) of Perth’s first Anglican Archbishop, the Rev C O Riley. It is one of the most complete holdings of a single family collection of toys in Australia and is of national significance.

I am not sure if the collection is on permanent display or just stored and occasionally exhibited.


There was once a doll museum at the Callington Mill in Oatlands which I visited on  a holiday to Tasmania before we moved and later with Naomi as it is not far from her house. At that time the museum was in one of the buildings attached to the mill but when it opened as a working flour mill and the town visitor centre was moved there the doll museum closed and I don’t know where the collection went. Most likely it was sold off.  This is a photo of the Callington Mill and outbuildings prior to renovation.

Callington Mill
Callington Mill and outbuildings at Oatlands before restoration.

The Doll and Bear Cottage in Scottsdale in north-east Tasmania is listed online but when I checked for the website I got a 404 error. I honestly don’t know if the place is still there. I rather doubt it.


I do wonder what will happen to these collections when the owners are no longer able to continue to operate the museums. Many seem to disappear without anyone realising. The Oatlands Doll Museum for example is still listed online although it has been gone for several years.

It would be nice to think that there might be someone who would take over and continue so that there are still places that you can go to see old dolls and toys but realistically this is a big undertaking for an individual and does not seem to be happening. Private collections are so often labours of love that when the original collectors die or move on that is the end . The rising cost of public liability insurance is just one of many reasons why small museums struggle.

This doesn’t only happen to dolls and toys of course. I was sad to read earlier in the week of the closure of the Canberra Railway Museum which David and I visited with our friends Gillian and Bruce about ten years ago. The collection can no longer be maintained and everything is to be sold off.  On a happier note, some years ago Naomi and I visited a very interesting museum near Hobart belonging to the Sound Preservation Association  of Tasmania which had audio equipment, old radiogrammes, record players, transistor radios and that sort of thing. We were shown around by an elderly volunteer who said that he was one of the only ones of the group who was still well enough to work at the museum. “When none of us can do it any more we’ll have to close.” I just checked and they still have a website and a Facebook page so I’m hoping they have been able to attract some new, younger members and will be around for a few more years.

I hope this post  has been of interest. I will try to follow up and see if any of the private collections are still available to view. Of course large city museums often do display toys and dolls as part of a social history collection but if you love dolls, teddies and toys as much as Naomi and I do you really want to see proper museums dedicated to them as well.

Readers in Australia if you have visited such a museum we’d love to hear about it especially any you have been to recently. Readers overseas perhaps you could list ones you know of in your country or ones that you have been to elsewhere. I might be able to compile a page of links and try to keep them updated for us all.  I would also be interested to hear about doll clubs, doll shows and other doll related events, even general toy collecting events. I’m a little concerned that so many of these events are also in danger of disappearing unless they are commercially successful because new or younger collectors may not be aware of them until it is too late.


Doll Museum Links:










  1. Thank you for posting this on doll museums. Sadly, there are very few, if any in America. Much the same has happened with doll and dollhouse miniature shops as well. I used to have my own shop but found one prevailing reason was that people ordered online more than visited a shop or they just didn’t think such shops existed anymore. Also most of the collector base was in the mid 30’s -to 80’s. I had very few young collectors, and if I did , they were accompanied by their parents who were encouraging them, but few of the millenenal generation who don’t seem to really care for dolls or dollhouses. I really enjoy your blog, so thank you for all the information on the antiques as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lisa. I rather suspect that I am going to be hearing the same story from all over the world. Dolls don’t seem to be so popular now and I don’t really understand why. I feel that at least in a small way by our writing perhaps we can encourage new collectors by letting them know what is out there.


  2. I blame it on mobile phones and social media to some degree. Young people only want to play with their phones. Tots are given a tablet instead of dolls or toy cars. I rarely see a child carrying a much loved doll, golly or teddy bear when I am out anymore. You don’t even see little girls and boys playing in a cubby house anymore. Kids used to love cubby houses or club houses and they all spent many hours outside playing with their dolls and toys or playing games together. I hope that one day they will rediscover the simple pleasure of a picnic on the back lawn with dolls and teddies as guests or a game of hop scotch on the pavement outside their house with the neighbour’s kids. The family sitting around the table and playing a board game or little girls and boys if they want making things for their Barbies and GI Joes. Honestly today’s kids are really missing out on a lot of fun and ways of interacting with real people and things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very informative post, wow, lucky you had the chance to visit some of these places. I guess most of the dolls probably went to thrift stores. We do not have doll museums in the Philippines, Shirley Temple is in my wish list.


  4. I would imagine that many vintage toys and dolls were sold to collectors. Most would have been valuable enough to have gone to people who cherish them.
    Today’s children do seem to like dolls, but mostly the American Girl type. They seem to be huge here in the states and I have seen postings on Youtube by children and mothers, and sometimes adult collectors, who are very much into collecting these particular toys. I am sometimes amazed at how sophisticated the filming is, some done with automation, and all sorts of things I would never know how to do. So hopefully kids are getting the best of both worlds, imagination and technology growing up.
    I sometimes see people from all generations who post on websites saying that their generation was the best, most innocent, most fun time, and some of these people are talking about the 80’s, 90’s, and forward! So I guess most people are nostalgic about their own youth.
    Hopefully everybody has something good to remember and pass along. (Of course the 50’s and 60’s were the most amazing times). ;0)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes you are probablyl right, most people think their own era was the best. The American Girl thing does seem to be huge and I am glad that they are popular with kids today and that filming their dolls has become something that they can enjoy doing with them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.