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Terrific Toy Museums

Crafty Creations

Terrific Toy Museums

Visitors to doll and toy museums, or to museum exhibits featuring playthings from bygone eras, can easily recall the thrill of opening a special gift as a child and reminisce about happy days spent playing with a favorite doll or toy.

Besting even the most spoiled child on your hometown block, the Kentucky Library & Museum at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green has nearly 2,800 toys in its collection, from sawdust-filled antique dolls with cloth bodies and Victorian puzzles and blocks, to more modern Barbie and Cabbage Patch dolls.

“My favorite tends to change,” says Registrar and Collections Curator Sandy Staebell. “I really like some of the classic toys. We have a wonderful teddy bear from 1908 that’s just precious.”

Many toys are in storage but can be shown by appointment, Staebell says. There are plans to create a gallery devoted to the collection.

The Jeffersontown Historical Museum focuses on the town’s origins, but it’s also home to about 1,450 folk dolls, says Director Beth Wilder. The dolls are arranged in periodically rotating exhibits–this year’s featured collection includes Southern European dolls.

Wilder said it’s easy to appreciate the intricacy and care involved in making the dolls.

“Just the handiwork that went into them–they’re tourist dolls but someone sat down and made these things,” she says.

Touting itself as “A Place to Relive the Joys of Dolls and Toys,” the Kentucky Doll & Toy Museum in Carlisle opened in fall 2007, beginning with the private collection of curator Jan Taylor, and growing with donations and purchases. Included are china- and porcelain-head, vintage, and international dolls, dollhouses, and toys.

The dolls can be educational–U.S. presidential first lady dolls in the Madame Alexander collection, from Martha Washington to Jackie Kennedy, are on display, and dolls from other parts of the world are dressed in their native garb.

“You can learn something about other cultures just by looking at them,” Taylor says.

The museum also offers a sales area, doll hospital, and appraisals.

In Danville, the 6,000-square-foot Great American Dollhouse Museum opened in mid-August, with hundreds of dollhouses filled with custom-made and historically representative character dolls, furniture, and accessories arranged in lifelike, landscaped settings.

Curator Lori Kagan-Moore says viewing the dollhouses isn’t a passive experience. “It’s fun and challenging to determine how the dolls interact within their miniature microcosms. It also serves as a glimpse of social history,” she says, showing how people lived day to day.

Children yearning to touch and play with toys won’t be denied here–a carpeted playroom has dollhouses, dolls, furniture, and animals to amuse young visitors.


The Great American Dollhouse Museum, 344 Swope Drive, Danville, (859) 583-8000, $7 adults, $5 children ages 2-12. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday. Allow two to four hours to tour. Also offers mini artistry workshops and school tours.

Jeffersontown Historical Museum, 10635 Watterson Trail, Jeffersontown, (502) 261-8290. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. See 1,450 folk dolls from different cultures and eras.

Kentucky Doll & Toy Museum, 106 W. Main Street, Carlisle, (859) 289-4040, Open by appointment or chance. Admission by donation. Doll hospital for doll repair on-site. Also includes mixture of antique, vintage, and new items on consignment for sale; appraisals on-site free.

The Kentucky Library & Museum at Western Kentucky University, 1400 block of Kentucky Street, Bowling Green, (270) 745-2592, Exhibit gallery hours 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday. $5 adults, $2.50 ages 6-16 and 60+, $10/family, Sundays half-price. Has 1,300 dolls, toys, and games; many are in storage but can be shown by appointment.

The Morris Toy Museum, 1007 First Street, Carrsville, (270) 988-3591. Free unless large groups, then $2 each. April-October, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. or by appointment, call ahead. Thousands of toys, 1800s-present.

Nostalgia Station Toy & Train Museum, 279 Depot Street, Versailles, (859) 873-2497, $3.50 adults, $3 age 60 and over, $1.50 children, under age 3 free. Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p .m., Sunday 1-5 p.m. Antique toys, model trains, railroad memorabilia (mainly late 1800s-1930s) within restored 1911 L&N train station.

South Central Kentucky Cultural Center, 200 W. Water Street, Glasgow, (270) 651-9792, Free, donations welcomed. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Toys and dolls in different areas, including the log cabin, general store, Victorian exhibit.

Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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Crafty Creations

For 30 years, Robin and Mary Reed have been living in their idea of paradise in rural Estill County, surrounded by mountains and “trees and trees and trees” in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

“Your creativity comes from the nature around you,” Mary says when explaining how the Appalachians inspire their business, Appalachian Crafts. Robin makes handmade poplar, willow, and hickory bark baskets, while his wife specializes in cornhusk dolls, angels, birds, mobiles, and nativity sets.

Juried members of the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program, the Reeds are in good company, as those majestic mountains harbor a wealth of artisans, in particular along the Buckhorn, Gateway, and Millstone trails on the Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails driving tours.

“Kentucky has some of the most innovative, incredible artists, and so many are in this area,” says Gavin Wilson, who forges sculptural and artistic iron and copper at his Mountainfire Forge near London. A forestry consultant, Wilson currently does his blacksmithing and forging on the side, putting on demonstrations at schools and exhibiting at festivals.

Both Wilson and the Reeds display work at the Kentucky Artisan Center, just off I-75 at Berea, as does Chris Robbins, who learned the dying art of broom-making at the age of 14 from a master, Shakertown craftsman Jim Horman.

Now only 23, Robbins uses equipment more than 100 years old; his 1878 broom press was patented by the Shakers. “To pay the bills” while converting an 1860 log cabin in Brodhead into a studio, he turns out household brooms, but loves to craft “crazy ones” from antlers, driftwood, and crooked twigs, and art pieces, such as two, three, or four brooms on one stick.

“Some broom makers make useful brooms and others make solely decorative ones,” he says. “I do both, and that’s unusual.”

“Unusual” aptly describes the work of basket maker Yvonne Rosania, a resident of Estill County since 1995, who newly relocated her Free Spirit Creations to Mt. Sterling.

“I love to create outside the box,” she laughs. “I’ve used potato mashers as handles and made baskets out of pastry blenders. I’ll weave anything into my baskets–bailing twine, pieces of sweaters, objects from nature, deer antlers. I do a lot of commission work for hunters.”

Once you slide into one of Mike Angel’s “mule-ear” rocking chairs–with back posts that stick up like mule ears–you’ll want to commission one for your front porch. Owner of Red Dog Chairs in Laurel County, self-taught woodworker Angel, a retired U.S. Treasury agent, employs local chair weavers, wood carvers, sawyers, and loggers to help make his sought-after hardwood furniture.

“It’s the Appalachian influence in the Kentucky hickory-bottom chairs that people like,” he says. “I often hear, ‘This is like my grandfather used to have.’ We make them to be heirlooms that last for generations.”

A truck driver by trade, Mike Adams is another self-taught Laurel County woodturner whose wooden bowls got him juried into the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program. Each one, he says, is a little bit different.

“A handmade gift is always one of a kind,” Mary Reed explains. “It tells the story of the individual who made it. It’s a very personal choice as opposed to purchasing something that’s been mass-produced.”

“Store-bought brooms are plastic, while ones handmade of wood have a homey touch, a country feel,” Robbins adds. “And they’re made in Kentucky. American crafts should be made by American craftsmen.”


You can earn points this holiday by giving a one-of-a-kind handcrafted treasure. “By purchasing handmade gifts, we’re helping support ourselves, our neighbors, and our own economy,” says Nancy Atcher, arts access director for the Kentucky Arts Council. “These creations are someone’s passion, and there’s no gift more sincere.”

Appalachian Craft Sources
Kentucky Artisan Center (Berea)
Gallery and shop with Kentucky crafts, music, foods; working craft demos; resource to locate artists and craftsmen across Kentucky.
(859) 985-5448

Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails
Cultural heritage tourism and business development program with Internet-based driving trails directing visitors to Appalachian craftsmen.
(859) 622-2334

Kentucky Craft Marketing Program
Division of Kentucky Arts Council sponsoring Kentucky Crafted: The Market, the state�s handcrafted gift market.
(888) KY-CRAFT

Morris Fork Crafts, Booneville
30-year-old nonprofit Appalachian handcraft cooperative marketing a wide variety of crafts across half the U.S.
(606) 398-2194

Area Artisans
Here are just a few of the numerous artisans in the Appalachian area:

Richard Adams, London: Wooden bowls.
(606) 344-0329

Wood furniture.
(606) 878-8555

Carolyn Carroll, McKee: Quilts.
(606) 287-7018

Delmar Eby, London: Wooden toys.
(606) 878-1714

Linda and Jack Fifield, McKee: Beaded vessels, wood furniture.
(606) 287-8326

Lonnie and Twyla Money, Money�s Folk Art, East Bernstadt: Gourd and wood creations.
(606) 843-7783

Robin and Mary Reed, Appalachian Crafts, Irvine: Bark baskets, cornshuck creations.
(606) 723-4678

Chris Robbins, Brooms By Chris, Brodhead:
Traditional and artsy brooms.
(800) 991-7035

Yvonne Rosania, Free Spirit Creations, Mt. Sterling:
Antler and natural fiber baskets.
(606) 975-0053

Patricia Truett, McKee: Baskets.
(606) 364-8534

Gavin Wilson, Mountainfire Forge, London:
Forged iron and copper.
(606) 545-2578

Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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