Hello, Dolly!

We recently had a visit from Olivia Bristol, ex-head of the Doll, Teddy Bear and Toy department at auctioneers Christie’s.

We spent an action-packed afternoon working through Discovery Museum’s doll collection with Olivia, and she kindly helped us to identify when and where many of the dolls were made so that we could improve the records that we hold for each doll.

We have a diverse range of dolls in the collection. We have toy dolls, framed display dolls, portrait dolls that look like real people, study dolls for artists and dolls that showcase outfits. They are made of wood, fabric, leather, plastic, papier-mâché, wax or even bisque porcelain. Here is a whirlwind tour of the types of doll in the collection:

One of the oldest dolls was handmade between 1750 and 1820. The head, legs and body are wooden and the arms are made from fabric and leather.

Wooden and leather doll.

Wooden and leather doll, at least 190 years old. TWCMS: J203

Some of the newer dolls include Barbies and Sindys and a miniature Cabbage Patch Kids doll from 1984, which was manufactured in China. The larger soft dolls in this range were extremely popular in the mid-1980s as each one had individual features, a name and a birth-certificate.

Cabbage Patch Kids doll

Miniature Cabbage Patch Kids doll, jointed and made of plastic. TWCMS: 1995.2526

The dolls in the collection are a good reflection of local social history.

Some have more expensive clothes and life-like features, these types of dolls belonged to middle class children. Many are more basic and of lower manufacturing quality. These dolls have often been ‘loved to bits’ by their owners, unlike the more expensive dolls, which were commonly stored in presentation boxes or sat on display for years in people’s homes.

Working class doll c. 1860

Working class doll c. 1860, made of wax over composition (head), fabric (body) and wood (limbs). TWCMS: J205

We have several dolls in pretty bridal outfits.

Bride doll

Pottery bisque bride doll with blonde hair and a painted face. Manufactured between 1918 and 1923. TWCMS: S1168.

One ragdoll, made between 1940 and 1950, is a representation of actress Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara from the 1939 film ‘Gone with the Wind’.

‘Scarlett O’Hara’ ragdoll.

‘Scarlett O’Hara’ ragdoll from 1940. TWCMS: J207

We have also got an assortment of dolls that are dressed in the style of Cullercoats fishwives. They carry wicker fish baskets called creels and their outfits were handmade locally to represent the traditional dress of the area.

Cullercoats fishwife doll, front.

Portrait doll c. 1910, dressed in the style of a Cullercoats fishwife. TWCMS : J9850

Cullercoats fishwife doll, back.

Back view of Cullercoats fishwife doll, showing traditional creel. TWCMS : J9850.

Which is your favourite doll?

If you would like to read about more of the dolls in our collection, why not click here to access IMAGINE – our educational website collection.

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