After World War II, Claudia Kelsey, a passionate toy collector, moved to Juneau, Alaska with her friend Bea to pursue her career as an artist. She brought with her a vast collection of dolls, figures, and miniatures that were dear to her heart, and upon her passing, this collection became the beloved gallery known as Aunt Claudia’s Dolls.
Upon Claudia’s death, her friend Bea decided to display the collection, which had grown to over 800 items, to the public free of charge. The gallery is frequently visited by families, and visitors are treated to a diverse array of unique toys, including one of the country’s most extensive displays of northern indigenous dolls and miniatures.
The collection includes everything from delicate fisherman figures to plush teddy bears and Scooby-Doo stuffed animals, as well as books on doll-making and repair. The items in the collection come from all around the world, with the native pieces hailing from Alaska, Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland.
In recent years, the collection has grown even larger thanks to donations from Claudia’s sisters, Adelaide and June, as well as friends and neighbors from Juneau. The museum, which has a playful and child-friendly atmosphere, is meant to be a place where visitors can admire the collection and even handle many of the items, immersing themselves in joy and nostalgia. While some of the items are newer and store-bought, others, like the native dolls, are handmade and fragile, carrying traditional and historical importance.
None of the items in the collection are for sale, but the museum does selectively accept donations of items to include in the collection. This is all part of the vision to keep the childlike love and appreciation for the city that Aunt Claudia called home alive.