Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Margaret Woodbury Strong's Slumbering Army

Remember that time when I went into the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh and scared myself silly with old dolls? Well. If you'd like to replicate that experience for yourself, you don't have to go all the way to Scotland. You'll find all the terrifying dolls you need, in excess, in Margaret Woodbury Strong's doll collection.

Let's talk about Ms. Strong for a moment. She lived from 1897 to 1968. The Strong Museum website says that she was born into "a wealthy family of collectors," which makes me immediately think of the room in the Vanderbilt museum filled with thousands of inert marine animals floating in formaldehyde. By "inert," I mean "dead." That room is every bit as creepy and weird as it is marvelous and impressive. I picture Vanderbilt as having some kind of mania of accumulation, not in the sense of hoarding, but in the sense that he knew he had enough money to own everything on the planet, including nature itself, and he went about systematically acquiring it. There's a kind of collecting that seems to be particular to the very, very wealthy, and I believe a collection of twenty-seven thousand dolls falls into that category.


Apparently when Strong got the idea for a museum, she was going to have it in a wing of her house, and it was going to be called, "The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Fascination," and that name would have been quite accurate. The dolls are fascinating. Unfortunately, looking through my pictures, I discovered that I appear to have self-edited for the pretty dolls, and only took a few pictures of the most fascinating (i.e., horrifying) ones. The ones I have are decently horrifying, though. We'll work up to them.

Some of the dolls are quite beautiful.

Grace Kelly and the Prince of Monaco, in clothes that had to have been stitched by mice.

Henry VIII with Catherine Parr, one of the wives he neglected to murder
probably because he died first.

Please note the more-or-less anatomically-correct proportions of these dolls.
You won't be seeing that again for a while.

My, what long arms you have.

Oh . . . oh, dear.

These two are really rather exquisite. Look at his face! So expressive and perfect!
If only his wife didn't have that unfortunate witchy hue.

I have nothing snotty to say about this pair;
I think they're hilariously adorable.

On to the weirdness.

The head on the right wants to tell you that resistance is futile.
You will be assimilated.

The head on the left has no idea anything's wrong at all.



Notice that the doll behind the addlepated human sphinx is looking at it very angrily.
I wouldn't want to share a glass case with that thing either.

Come to think of it, what with all the inert creatures in glass cases
this is very like Vanderbilt's, uh, Zoo of Death, if you will.

Can you imagine the horrors if they came alive and broke free
no wait let's not imagine that.

Of course this post is going to end with inappropriate uses of hair. Having been born in 1897, Margaret Woodbury Strong grew up in the heyday of inappropriate hair use. I made that up, I have no idea when the heyday of inappropriate hair use began and ended. But I know for a fact that it was going on when she was a child. Have a look at this charming photo of Strong as a little girl, with her beloved doll Mabel.

It's so much less cute when you discover, as the caption forces you to do, that Mabel had a wig made of Margaret's hair. I honestly think it's weird stuff like this that paved the way for the progressive income tax. Somebody had to curb the eccentricities of the wealthy when their inappropriateness began to reach egregious levels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the "Chucky" movies. I never saw them, but the trailers always showed a rather questionable doll doing awful things to people.