Tulsa-Based Doll and Toy Museum a Treasure

Contributing Writer

CURATOR: The owner of the museum, Ida Dennie Willis, shows her 1950s dolls.


The Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys has a new arrival: several dolls came from Bangkok, and two 1950s dolls were donated by an Oklahoma resident.

The owner of the museum, schoolteacher Ida Willis, began to collect dolls in 1963 and opened the museum in 1992. Later her son bought a beautiful house at 628 N. Country Club Dr. in Tulsa, where the museum is now located.

There are about 2,000 dolls in the Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys now and many of them are unique. The museum is a good place to study American and world history and culture for children and adults.

There is a collection of Americana which includes historical houses, figurines of presidents of the United States, and dolls representing patriots of the nation, such as Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin and others, all dressed in 18th century clothes. The Old West exhibition of dolls and miniatures is another era to view American history.

Ida Willis traveled to different countries such as Canada, France and Mexico and constantly added something to her collection from those visits. The museum houses exhibitions of dolls and miniature furniture from Germany, Japan, India, Russia, China, and Africa. The oldest doll comes from Brazil. It was made approximately in 1850. The skill of the Brazilian who made the doll was good because of tiny details such as wooden rings, bracelets and beads, nails, and fruits in the basket on its head.

Dolls representing royal families over the world are also exhibited, such as the last Russian Czar Nicolas and his wife Alexandra, English King Henry the 8th, Queen Elizabeth, and Princess Diana.

Other collections include ballerina dolls, gypsy dolls and caravans, circus dolls and animals, Barbie dolls and nursery rooms. The museum carries the first Barbie and Ken too. There are also relatively new dolls from the past five years.

Many tiny things in the museum can surprise anybody because of the exact details copied from real, “big” things. Tiny coins, decorative plates and books will awake a person’s imagination, and the books are even readable.

The Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys has miniature things and pictures of well-known American makers of miniatures, such as Elizabeth Heritage, John and Ellen Blauer, and Judy Berman. It is interesting that some miniature makers began to do it as a hobby and became real professionals and even famous. Some of them invented new things, for example, Judy Berman, who started her company in 1967 and invented plastic furniture kits in 1970. With the kits came the popularity of the room box. Berman made a great many room boxes to display her kits and introduce new pieces or new combinations.

Ida Willis made some furniture for her museum, too. Indeed, collecting and making miniatures can be a really fun hobby, and Ida Willis shares it with us. Her museum is a non-profit organization and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. The telephone is 584-6654.

Updated 06-30-2005

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