Article from The Hartford Courant, May 21, 1998, p. B11.
by Robin Stansbury, Courant Staff Writer


Piece Of History Found At Science Center

Japanese Children Gave Doll To U.S. In 1927

WEST HARTFORD -- It was about eight weeks ago that Richard Rich received three unusual calls at the Science Center of Connecticut [name changed to The Children's Museum in 2006]
from people all looking for the same thing.

They were searching for a special doll -- one of 58 sent to the United States more than 70 years ago from children in Japan.

He had no idea what they were talking about.

But one of the callers was insistent. She remembered seeing such a doll as a child at the science center.

The search was on.

"None of us have been here long enough to know who she was or what she was," said Rich, the exhibitions manager, of the doll named Miss Chosen, who was given to the then-Children's Museum of Hartford in 1927. "She had been forgotten."

The doll was one of 58 the Japanese government sent to the United States on behalf of the country's children, and in response to American children who sent more than 12,000 dolls to Japan to promote goodwill.

Miss Chosen at the Science Center in West Hartford

But the friendship dolls, once the subject of celebration -- including at the science center, which received the only doll sent to Connecticut -- had been forgotten, lost, or destroyed during World War II.

The doll was given to the science center the year it opened as only the fifth museum for children in the nation. It is not known exactly how long the doll was displayed, or when it was taken down.

Rich started searching through old files for any mention of the doll. One file led to another, and another and still another, until he discovered the first evidence of Miss Chosen's existence, -- a black-and-white photo of the doll along with her passport, steamship ticket and newspaper articles about the doll's arrival in Connecticut.

But instructions from that file said the doll was stored in a room that no longer existed.

Employees turned to their only remaining option -- a large basement storage room known as "the vault" where older exhibits and no-longer-used artifacts are kept, and in their spare time searched for the doll.

Eight weeks after that first phone call, employee Mike Bonzagni said he noticed "this large, not very glamorous box in one corner."

Inside the former 16-roll paper towel box was the 32-inch Miss Chosen, her red, pink and orange kimono faded, both legs cracked, and a small fracture on her neck.

The doll became the 41st Japanese friendship doll to be recovered in the nation.

"For us, she is an important part of our history," Rich said. "She came to us in the very beginning of our existence, and is still with us today."

The doll has also caused a stir among doll enthusiasts here and in Japan, where foreign newspapers have documented each rediscovery of the forgotten dolls.

"We see them as toys. But in Japan the dolls represent the accumulations of their customs and history," said Peg Bailey, co-founder of Japanese American Doll Enthusiasts. The Iowa-based group of doll collectors, dealers and doll makers began searching for the missing dolls about three years ago. "Japanese give dolls as gifts of friendship and they are giving you a piece of themselves and their culture. If you learn about the dolls, you learn about the Japanese."

Science center officials said they hope to once again display Miss Chosen, and were expecting a visit today from Michiko Takaoka, director of the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane, Wash. She plans to evaluate the doll and make recommendations on her conservation and restoration. The true value of the doll is not known, but has been estimated at up to $100,000.

For now, Miss Chosen remains in the cardboard box she was found in.

Miss Chosen Page

Photo used with permission of Science Center of Connecticut

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