Phyllis Baskerville, affectionately known as the “Toy lady of Fortville, Ind.,” established Dolly Mama’s Museum of Dolls & Toys in 2001. After years of providing a loving home to antique and vintage dolls, toys and memorabilia, the 90-year-old is in search of a new home for the entire museum collection.
Maintenance and operation of the museum has become challenging for Baskerville, which led to the decision to close it and seek a new owner for the collection. It’s a decision she didn’t make lightly, especially since she began acquiring the items in 1998, and because the sale of the collection is an all-or-nothing deal.
“It has to stay together,” said Baskerville, who has fielded numerous inquiries and offers to purchase single items from the collection, all of which she has turned down. “It’s a museum, and the items are all part of it.”
The museum, which includes seven rooms, many organized by category/theme, such as a school classroom and a sports room with a section devoted to Indianapolis Colts memorabilia, was a vacant church when Baskerville purchased it. Although she estimates the collection includes nearly 10,000 items, a museum wasn’t the goal when she first began collecting. At that time, Baskerville was at one of the darkest emotional points of her life, as she and her family were dealing with the progression of her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband, Bob, passed away in 2000.
“At one point I went into a depression and didn’t really realize what it was,” said Baskerville. “My daughter, who is a nurse, suggested I do something that was just for me. So, two days a week I’d go to auctions, garage sales and thrift shops, buying toys and dolls. One day I’d go with one daughter, and the next time I’d go with my other daughter.”
Eventually, the size of the collection seemed to get out of control, she added. “We asked ourselves what to do with all these toys? A museum seemed to be the answer, and that is how Dolly Mama’s Museum happened.”
From Barbie, board games, tin windups, clowns and figural toys to bears, memorabilia and an
amazing assortment of dolls and doll houses, there is a wide variety of characters. Baskerville (along with her daughters Tara Lee and Tamara McTargett) credit the Museum’s cast of characters, all in working order and pristine condition, for helping her come back from the darkness. Since then, she’s met a number of people, and listened to their tales of wonder and nostalgia as they strolled through her museum. Over the years, visitors from all 50 states, as well as Spain, Germany, Denmark,
Russia, Canada and Mexico have experienced this unique and enchanting museum. A museum, Baskerville is quick to mention, that has attracted visitors purely by word of mouth and by being featured in regional television news reports, books and magazine articles. She never once advertised, and it seems this is a case where “build it and they will come” applies.
“I love showing all these memories to people, and showing the younger generation how it used to be,” she added. “I am just unable to do it anymore, and I want to find a new home for all these things, where people can keep coming to see them.”
Assisting their mother in creating Dolly Mama’s Museum and now helping find a new owner is simply showing love and appreciation for their mother, the two daughters said.
“We fondly hope to witness our mother’s joy as she finds a home for the entire collection with someone that would love and cherish it as much as she has, and will preserve her legacy of priceless dolls and toys and childhood memories for years to come,” according to a joint statement provided by the two women.
Assisting Baskerville and her daughters in the search for a new owner of the collection, is Dick Wolfsie, a seasoned multi-media journalist and author in Indiana. Baskerville is willing to sell the museum building and all of its contents, or just the collection.
Anyone with interest in purchasing Dolly Mama’s Museum of Dolls & Toys is encouraged to contact Dick Wolfsie via email at Wolfsie@aol.com or call 317-594-9312, or Antoinette Rahn via email at toni.rahn@fwcommunity or call 715-350-7078.
Enjoy a glimpse inside Dolly Mama's Museum, in an interview with WISH-TV's Dick Wolfsie: