Toy and Miniature Museum adds 'National' to its name

Hidden gem is trying to raise its profile

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - KC's Toy and Miniature Museum does more than just display one of the world's largest private collection of toys and miniatures. It also binds generations. 

"I eavesdropped in the Marble Gallery one day," said Jamie Berry, the museum's executive director, "and was listening to a grandpa talking to his grandson about playing marbles." 

Museum leaders, like Berry, hope more visitors will produce many more precious family moments like that in the future.

The museum has taken steps to raise its public profile and increase attendance. Tuesday, Berry and Chairman of the Board Vincent Gauthier announced the museum is inserting the word "National" into its title. 

Once the signs are changed on the outside of the building it will be known as "The National Toy and Miniature Museum."

Berry said the title is deserved because no other toy museum in the country can match Kansas City's. 

"In the last 10 years, over 27 museums that have similar collections in nature to ours -- toys, dolls, and miniatures -- have closed their doors," she said.

By contrast, the KC museum, located on the UMKC campus, has expanded twice in its 30 years of existence and has attracted an average of 25,000 visitors per year over the past five years.

Gauthier said he thinks the Toy and Miniature Museum can double its attendance once improvements are completed. 

"We're part of the list of great museums that this city already has," he said. "But we want to elevate the profile."

The museum is in the middle of a capital improvements campaign. Plans include an overhaul of the building's heating and cooling system and new exhibits and interpretations. 

Just over $8 million has been raised out of a goal of $9.2 million.

The renovation is expected to start in 2014.

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