KC Toy Museum hosts black paper doll exhibit

Posted at 12:12 PM, Apr 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-07 18:09:23-04

On the surface, toys are just that. But when you take a deeper look, they can give you a glimpse into American history. That's exactly what the latest exhibit at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures seeks to do.

The museum's Stereotypes to Civil Rights: Black Paper Dolls in America exhibit examines how the childhood toys mirror black history in America from the days of slavery, to the civil rights era, right on up to present day.

"You see the images of African-Americans in the specific time periods in which social changes were occurring," said said paper doll collector and curator Arabella Grayson. "You have images from Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin all the way through President Obama. So you see this chronology of black people in this country through this collection."

Grayson specializes in Ghanaian and African-American art and artifacts. To date, she has more than 400 dolls from comic strips, political cartoons, greeting cards, magazines, nooks and box sets from nearly a dozen countries, including the U.S., Germany and South Africa. Her collections have appeared in the Smithsonian and the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Now, it's on exhibit in Kansas City at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures through Aug. 21.

"Our world view is shaped by images," said Grayson. "When you have had an experience of looking at any collection, really, and you see the chronology, it informs how you look at other things because our worldview and our perception of people is shaped by the images we see of them in popular culture."

Grayson will offer hands-on programming and workshops during her short visit to Kansas City.

APRIL 7, 2016 | 6-7 P.M.

From the late 18th century to the present, social changes have been reflected in paper dolls. Collector and author Arabella Grayson will examine these changes through a chronological history of the origins of paper dolls and the introduction of black paper dolls in popular media.
$10 for general admission. Free for museum members, and UMKC faculty, staff and students.
RSVP (816) 235-8005 or

APRIL 8, 2016 | 2-3 P.M. 

Collector and author Arabella Grayson will highlight the ways in which the media influences self-image and self esteem through play. Using current affairs, personal anecdotes, and insights from her rare collection of black paper dolls, Grayson reveals how individuals are always responding to media images by embracing or rejecting them. Included with museum admission.
RSVP (816) 235-8005

APRIL 9, 2016 | 1-4 P.M. 

Using a tour of Stereotypes to Civil Rights as inspiration, visitors will create paper figures based on historic or current events, or famous personalities. Included with museum admission. Recommended for ages seven and up.


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