Safe Keeping: Old Dolls
Dolls have been beloved kids’ playthings for centuries, so it’s no surprise they sometimes look worse for the wear. But if you take the precautionary measures listed here, Great-grandma’s childhood sidekick still can bring joy to more generations.
• Keep it clean. Before you store a doll, you’ll want to remove grime and dirt that’s built up over the years. But be careful that your well-intentioned efforts don’t cause damage. Cleaning methods vary by the doll’s makeup) — usually, porcelain, bisque, plastic or cloth. See About.com’s tips and links to conservation Web sites <collectdolls.about.com/od/restoration>, and consult these books: The Handbook of Doll Repair & Restoration by Marty Westfall (Three Rivers Press) and The Care of Favorite Dolls: Antique Bisque Conservation by Mary Caruso (Hobby House Press).
• Let them breathe. Storing dolls in airtight plastic containers puts them at risk for mold and mildew. Instead, keep them in closed cabinets, away from pets, dust and sunlight, in a temperature-controlled area of your home. Place dolls in archival boxes (rather than acidic wood or cardboard) and cushion them with acid-free tissue or cloth. Turn bisque dolls with glass eyes facedown in their boxes.
• Do it in the dark. Direct sunlight can fade doll clothing and hair, and fluorescent lights can turn vinyl dolls green. Indirect lighting is always best. If you want to show off your prized playthings, change out the dolls on display to minimize their exposure to light and dust.
• Handle with care. Wash your hands – and don’t put on lotion – before touching a doll. Keep food away from them and their storage areas. Though dolls are kids’ toys, it’s best not to let your little darlings play with the antique variety.
• Watch for invaders. Unwanted creatures like to nest in doll wigs (often mohair or human hair) and clothing. Before adding a new doll to your collection, inspect it thoroughly for signs of insects and eggs. The United Federation of Doll Clubs recommends fumigating contaminated dolls with moth crystals for at least six weeks to rid them of pests; for instructions, see <www.ufdc.org/0nlineClubSeminar12.htm>.
• Be fashion-minded. Your doll’s original clothing, shoes and other accessories add value, so keep them even if you buy her new togs.
• Go to the hospital. Call the doctor if you need help with intensive repairs, such as resetting displaced eyeballs or making over a “basket-case Barbie.” Contact the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works <aic.stanford.edu> or your local historical society for doll hospital referrals.
Not sure whether you have a German doll or a French Bébé; a Midge or a Skipper? If you find a brand marking on the toy, surf over to Doll Reference <www.dollreference.com> for information on dolls from the 1840s to the 1980s. Use the search tool in the upper-right corner to find a match and learn more about your doll’s origins and age. Pictures and advertisements accompany many of the descriptions. You also can see photographs of popular dolls from the 1930s to 1990s, organized by decade, at <www.dollinfo.com/balloons.htm>.
If your doll has no maker’s markings, try a reference guide such as 200 Years of Dolls: Identification and Price Guide, 3rd edition, by Dawn Herlocher (Krause Publications).
Whether you traversed the country looking for ancestral locales or squeezed in a day trip to the cemetery this summer, scrap-book about your travels while they’re fresh in your memory. Scrap Your Trip sells paper packs and ephemera for creating vacation-themed pages. The Road Trip selection has cool vintage map patterns, and the USA section offers scrapping suggestions for every state in the union. (866) 955-0005, <www.scrapyourtrip.com>
A great scrapbooking adhesive is acid-free, provides a lasting hold (yet lets you reposition things), and doesn’t show through vellum or warp paper. Look for the following sticky stuff at craft stores and online retailers such as Scrapbook Supercenter <www.scrapbooksupercenter.com> (click Adhesives) or Scrapbook.com Superstore <store.scrapbook.com>.
WackyTac’s “sticky note” formula comes in liquid, tape, dots and sheets that let you try again if you change your mind about where to put that embellishment. Dimensional Superdots peel apart, so you decide how much height to give a decoration. Restickable Vellum Tape doesn’t show through translucent papers.
Permanent, three-dimensional JudiKins Diamond Glaze dries to a strong, crystal-clear finish. Use it to attach glass beads or create water-drop accents for summertime swim photos. Add color by mixing in watercolors or dye-based inks. (Order a free sample from <diamondglaze.com>.)
Tape applicators prevent sticky fingers. The Herma Dotto Removable applicator puts dots even in the smallest spaces. And you can reposition photos without leaving residue behind.
From the September 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine.