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Port Austin History Center uses dolls to portray history

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The Port Austin History Center will use an unorthodox method to shine a light on the history of the village and surrounding area this summer – through vintage dolls made before 1950.

“It’s our attempt, in a way, to highlight a period of history in this area through dolls,” said show planning committee representative Norlaine Tinsey.

The History Center organizes a regular program of events each year that take place during the summer. However, this is the first time he will present a doll exhibition. If successful, it can transform into a display of more contemporary dolls.


The dolls will act as a historical timeline or the rings of a tree stump, showing how doll designs and materials over time reflect history.

For example, most dolls before World War I were made in Germany and France, made of fragile materials and intended for display, not play. Dolls intended for children to play with were often made from less expensive materials.

After the war, the doll trade in Germany collapsed and companies in the United States began making their own dolls to fill this void in the market. This is when we see a transition of dolls from display items to toys, as they were meant for children to play with. Dolls like Raggedy Anne appeared around this time, and the Alexander Doll Company came up with the idea of ​​making dolls from fairy tale stories. Hard plastic dolls appeared during World War II, as rubber was unavailable due to the war effort.

“It’s not a big show, but it should show off that story arc,” Tinsey said.

They will also have hands-on activities for kids, including coloring books with pictures of vintage dolls and a dollhouse for them to play with.

The History Center offers an open invitation to anyone in the Port Austin area to bring dolls for the exhibit, as long as they were made in the 1950s or earlier.