After a two-year-long hiatus, the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls & Toys has officially re-opened in Lakewood. Originally located in the City Park West neighborhood, the museum has now relocated to the suburbs. The transition was certainly not an easy one and the COVID-19 pandemic has added challenges of its own. Regardless, the museum survived initial difficulties and is now hoping to slowly expand with the help of the local community.
The museum was first founded in 1981 through the support of a grass-roots community coalition of miniature doll artists, business owners, and civic leaders and has been a staple of the toy collecting community ever since. It opened its first location in 1987 with the cooperation of the Colorado Historical Society within the Pearce-McAllister Cottage. Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys boasts 20,000 items in its collections. From the tiniest miniature rabbits to large impressive dollhouses, the collection is far from monotonous.
Objects collected from Coloradans make up part of the museum’s permanent collection and allow exhibition programming to retain a local emphasis. Past exhibits have included 100 Years of Girl Scouts through Dolls, Denver Toy Designers, Polly Pocket, and Harry Potter toys and miniatures. The museum also offers both on and off-site programming on a variety of topics, as well as meetups for people interested in learning about miniatures. Regular events for patrons include off-site miniatures trade shows, where miniature enthusiasts can meet, attend workshops, and expand or sell items from their collections.
The building itself is currently in its first phase of re-opening, meaning only the main room is currently accessible to the public. Yet despite this and the COVID-19 restrictions, the museum is as busy as ever. “We’ve been sold out most days but because reservations are recommended, it never feels crowded,” executive director Wendy Littlepage explained. “We’re also getting a younger crowd coming in due to miniature toys becoming popular on Instagram and TikTok.” What makes the museum stand out the most is its adaptability for all ages. The amount of detail in each dollhouse is comparable to the illustrations in the Where’s Waldo books.
Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls & Toys also offers scavenger hunts and gallery guides which can be found online. Kids will enjoy finding hidden gems among the toys and dolls while adults can peruse the miniature art created by local artists. According to Littlepage, the miniature toy community is very tight-knit. However, she has found that more people are joining the hobby of building dollhouses and tiny toys, especially due to the pandemic. “I think a lot of people got stuck at home and just thought to themselves, ‘What else am I going to do?’” Littlepage said. “It’s a small-scale hobby that you can do at your table and just pack it up in a box and share it with people.”
Furthermore, the museum features a gift shop where visitors can buy dolls and tiny toys to add to their collections. If you’re looking for a tiny chair or a mini pillow to round out your dollhouse look no further than the museum store. While the first phase of re-opening has been completed there is still a lot left in store for the museum. The new building is undergoing a series of remodeling projects. Classrooms will be added soon to allow for class instruction as well as a meeting space for miniature enthusiasts. An elevator is also being installed to make the building more accessible. By the end of the remodel the museum hopes to add another 7,000 square feet of public space.
Despite its successful opening thus far, the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls & Toys still relies on donations and help from the public. The museum is currently seeking monetary donations, volunteers, and item donations. Ultimately, the museum has a ways to go in terms of re-opening. Yet despite the two-year closure and the pandemic, miniature enthusiasts have a place to return and connect.
Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls & Toys is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The new building is located at 830 Kipling Street, Lakewood. Tickets must be made online in advance and prices vary from adults to kids/seniors. So, next time you find yourself in Lakewood, Jefferson County, consider stopping by and supporting this small museum while browsing through the seemingly never-ending collection of miniature collectibles.