By Tris Perkins, Educator and Curator of the World Cultures Collection
Many people may not realize it, but the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis owns a collection of over 110,000 objects from all over the world. As a curator, I’ve worked with thousands of objects in the museum’s World Cultures collection over the past 15 years. One of the things that I love most about my job is that I continue to learn new things each and every day about the museum’s objects and the stories they have to tell.
Recently, we learned something new and exciting about an object that’s been in the museum’s collection for more than 80 years! Miss Shimane, a three foot high Japanese doll, came to the United States in 1927 as part of a friendship doll exchange between children of the US and Japan. In 1929, she arrived at the Children’s Museum while her 57 sister dolls found other homes in the US. Over the years, many researchers have studied Miss Shimane and her sisters.
A Japanese doll specialist visited the museum recently to look more closely at the details on Miss Shimane and on her belongings. He discovered that the family crest on the doll’s accessories is that of Miss Shimane, however, the crest on her kimono belongs to another doll entirely. Most likely the doll is really Miss Wakayama, one of Miss Shimane’s 57 sisters. He revealed that when the 58 dolls and their accessories arrived in 1927, many of the items became mismatched and misidentified. It’s only recently that researchers have begun to correctly identify the dolls. And so it appears that the doll known as Miss Shimane for more than 80 years is most likely Miss Wakayama!
The museum’s collection continues to hold many secrets and hidden clues much like this one. Only interest, research, and time will help to reveal them. We look forward to many more “discoveries”!