Dolled up
Museum shows off doll collection

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 13/99) - When Yellowknifer Joanne Bird was a girl, her favourite doll wore a beautiful handmade white caribou skin jacket.

She played with the doll so much that the jacket became soiled.

"This was a good learning experience for a girl," she told visitors at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, where she is now the curator of collections.

"The coat was really dirty so we washed it. Now it's no longer white and no longer soft."

There are about 120 dolls at the centre, most of which were bought from collectors who had taken good care of them over the years.

The bulk of the collection dates from the 1930s through the 1950s, though there are some which are more recent. Some are 100 years old.

"There have been some dolls found that date back 1,000 years and show that children played with dolls in North America at that time," Bird said to the crowd gathered at the museum for a presentation on dolls Oct. 10.

"We know that they were children's playthings."

Some of the older dolls at the museum are made from wood. Permafrost and the Northern climate has helped preserve them.

"The thing about dolls is that everybody has at some time or another played with dolls," Bird said.

"They played with dolls as part of learning what adult roles are. They were teaching experiences for the children."

She said children in the past also learned practical skills such as how to sew by practising making clothes for their dolls.

After Bird gave a presentation on dolls, there was a show-and-tell session for anyone who had brought dolls.

Six-year-old Emma Welsh was one of the children who brought a doll to talk about.

Her favourite doll is named Suzie and was brought home from Japan by Welsh's grandmother.

"I like her because she's wooden," Welsh said, "I really like her."

Several other children and some adults brought their own dolls for the show-and-tell session.

Sarah McGregor, 5, had a fuzzy red dog with a long shoelace leash complete with peace symbols on it.

And 10-year-old Trista Campbell's favourite doll is one with a glass face and no name.

"I like it because of the colours -- green, purple and white. I keep it on the shelf because I don't want its face to get chipped."