Art doll

National Black Doll Museum hopes to move and reopen in Attleboro

The National Black Doll Museum of History and Culture in Mansfield was so unique and had such a rare collection of black dolls that the Smithsonian attempted to acquire it several years ago. But the museum was forced to close after losing its lease during the pandemic. There is now a movement to help bring the museum back to life.

The National Black Doll Museum was one of a kind. He had one of the largest collections of black dolls in the world. Some even date back to the late 1700s. “I didn’t have one when I was a kid. I felt a hole in my heart because someone told me I wasn’t worth it. I had teachers who told me I would never be anything,” Debbie Britt said.

Britt is the co-founder and executive director of the museum. She created the museum in 2004 because she was convinced that all children had something like them. “Life is tough and as kids they are supposed to have fun. They will find out that life is hard anyway. You don’t have to put it on them when they are young. When they’re young they’re supposed to have a good time and that’s all I want them to have,” she said.

Prior to its forced closure, the National Black Doll Museum was the only physical museum in the United States dedicated to the art, crafts, history, and preservation of black dolls. The museum had over 7,000 dolls depicting black icons in 8 different galleries. Each exposure was changed every 8 to 10 weeks. “We had fashion, sports, music, a piece that just told the story. We had a replica slave ship type room that was in there. We had a room that contained historical dolls. We had GI Joe in there, so we had something for everyone,” Britt said.

While the dolls are now packed up awaiting a new home, Britt and her staff, who are all volunteers, have taken some of the collection on the road to visit children in women’s shelters. “I know kids and women in shelters can’t take their kids out because they’re hiding,” Britt said.

Britt said she hopes to move and reopen the museum in Attleboro. A fundraiser is set up.

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