Seifert creates home
for her international doll collection
(October 2007) For many years, Ralph and Margaret
Seifert of Hanover, Ind., traveled the world and experienced the rich
diversity of other cultures. Everywhere they traveled, they looked for
a piece of that particular culture to bring home to share.
by Konnie McCollum
Seifert plans to open
a museum and cultural education
center in a downtown Madison
historic home to house her
vast collection of dolls.
Now close to 5,000 hand-made dolls and pieces of folk
art are waiting to be placed in a new museum that will soon occupy a
historic building in downtown Madison, Ind.
The Seifert-Short Museum, which will be a folk art and education center,
will be housed in a newly renovated historic home at 301 Broadway, next
to the Livery Stable. A collection of 300 nativity sets from around
the world will be the first display in the new museum, along with a
Christmas tree featuring more than 500 ornaments from around the world.
Things should be in place for the museum to be situated as a hospitality
site during the holiday seasons candlelight homes tour, Seifert
The museum was the brainchild of the late Ralph Seifert, a retired Hanover
College professor. But he never saw his idea come to fruition. He died
Oct. 26, 2006, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Margaret put
the project on hold during Ralphs illness but recently decided
to push forward with it.
We believe the way you bring about peace is for people to understand
other cultures, said Margaret, director of support services for
academics at Ivy Tech Community College. Since we do not have
a lot of diversity in our area, we bought each item with the intention
of putting them in some sort of cultural education setting.
The vast majority of the items are dolls made by the people of a particular
country from natural surroundings, and they reflect the culture of the
region. For example, one nativity set from Czechoslovakia is made with
corn husks, which are widely used for a variety of things in that country.
A Kenyan doll dressed in native clothing was made from banana fibers.
A Spanish nativity set has the Holy family wearing traditional Spanish
clothing and hairstyles.
by Konnie McCollum
the Orient are waiting
to be photographed, referenced and
There are dolls of every shape and size, with every ethnicity
and made from numerous natural products. There are carved wooden dolls,
porcelain dolls, wooden animals, puppets, dolls on sticks, and almost
any other type of doll imaginable.
More than 1,000 bisque and porcelain antique dolls were given to the
Seiferts by a relative, Mary Short, which is why the museum will include
her name. Other dolls and folk art that werent collected when
the Seiferts traveled were acquired by them through museum shops and
fair trade agencies, which purchase goods for fair prices from villagers.
There is also an extensive collection of needlework from around the
world to accompany many of the doll collections.
A beautiful hand-woven white and green wall hanging from China depicts
a young girl in the traditional Chinese garb feeding her flocks. The
Seiferts found that particular piece hanging in a restaurant in China.
Children understand other children through common bonds,
said Margaret Seifert. Ethnic dolls, toys and artifacts are tools
children can relate to that can help explain cultural differences.
With help from several college students, including Hanover College anthropology
major Molly Bowling and Wellesley College art history major Caroline
Huber, all of the dolls and folk art are being catalogued and tagged
with international country codes. The items are also being photographed
and referenced into a database that will eventually be housed in the
museum. Visitors will be able to use computer learning centers or kiosks
to find information about each item in a display.
Seifert also envisions a mini docent system set up at the museum in
which interested youths are trained to work as guides and information
specialists. Young people teaching each other and yet learning
at the same time works well, she said.
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