New Iowa museum to house old doll collection

September 9, 2018

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) — Glenna Voyles never stopped playing with dolls.

Her methods of play are quite different than when she was a little girl, of course. She has over 1,000 dolls in her collection, each with its own history and story behind its production.

Voyles has spent much of her adult life researching that history, always eager to share her knowledge with others.

“People can learn so much from dolls,” she said. “They aren’t just play things. They can teach you about history. They teach you about manufacturers. About fabric.”

The Hawk Eye reports that 16 years ago, Voyles inherited an immaculate collection of more than 400 historic dolls from Wilma and Donald Bussey, who lived near Corydon. The couple visited Old Threshers every year, and Wilma shared Voyles’ passion for doll collecting.

When Wilma died in 1979, Donald moved to California and took his wife’s collection of dolls with him. But he continued to visit Old Threshers on an annual basis, and after meeting Voyles, asked if she would be interested in displaying the dolls in a collection.

He needn’t have asked.

“It took seven years, but they finally arrived,” she said.

Shortly before Midwest Old Threshers started last week, a new museum housing the Bussey Doll collection finally opened its doors. Located inside Museum A on the Old Threshers grounds, the interior is lined with glass cases filled with dolls as new as Barbie and as old as Abraham Lincoln.

“It (the building) has been in the planning for three years,” Voyles said.

The Glenna Voyles Doll House was constructed with $134,000 in fundraiser money, most of which was drummed up by Voyles. But she had no idea the higher-ups at Old Threshers would name the museum after her. Not until she saw the sign.

She was embarrassed, humbled and honored, and impressed they were able to pull one over on her. Voyles didn’t need a fancy building with her name on it to keep her promise to Donald Bussey. She had been keeping that promise for 16 years already.

But she sure appreciates it.

“It’s been a labor of love. That’s my line throughout all of this,” she said. “Most of our dolls are from the Victorian Era. They have come down to us because, fortunately, children then were very careful with their toys.”

Several dolls in the collection are dressed in the fashions of the time they were created. Victorian coats, hats and elegant gowns with fine needle work are in abundant display, while more casual apparel are shown by dolls of the early 20th century.

Voyles, in addition to serving as curator for the Bussey collection, is an avid doll collector in her own right. She is a member of a national association of collectors and gives presentations before civic and fraternal groups.

She also is an accomplished artist in oil and water colors. The paper dolls she created are used in the Old Thresher display to present doll clothing.

“They’re not just playthings. But they are,” she said.

Though Midwest Threshers is now over, the Glenna Voyles Doll House is a permanent exhibit.


Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com

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