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Originally published Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Museum of the Month: Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art

This world-famous museum is housed in a stunning neo-Victorian-style building with space-age climate-control features that most museum curators can only dream...

Special to The Seattle Times

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Museum location: 1116 108th Ave. N.E., Bellevue

Permanent displays: This world-famous museum is housed in a stunning neo-Victorian-style building with space-age climate-control features that most museum curators can only dream about.

While dolls and toys of the 20th century such as Barbie and teddy bears are represented, the second-floor galleries hold the historical heart of the collection. These older dolls offer an incredible glimpse of life during the past three centuries.

Although many dolls reflect the heritage of their (largely European) craftsmen, the collection has an ethnically diverse population, including dolls made in Japan and Alaska.

Cases after cases of dolls are presented in detailed vignettes; there's even a talking doll created by Edison that used a phonograph cylinder. Scraps of information about individual dolls and their owners are fascinating and often poignant. Check out the dollhouse room, with amazing miniatures that decorate these structures, right down to the gold-plated table settings.

This museum is not just for an audience of little girls and their mothers; while some dolls were playthings, others offered a way to show prospective buyers samples of the latest French couture or poked fun at celebrities and political figures.

Temporary exhibits: Through Jan. 15, the museum features illustrations and dolls in Christmas settings inspired by Tasha Tudor, one of America's best-known children's book illustrators

Other highlights: The museum arose out of the extensive collection of its namesake and owner, and features more than 1,700 dolls in its permanent display. Awards include the prestigious Jumeau Trophy for Best Private Doll Museum in the World, awarded in Paris in 1994. The museum offers a gift shop.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 1-5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Christmas and New Year's Day; open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 31.

Admission: $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for children 5-17, children younger than 5 free.

Directions: From Interstate 405 (northbound or southbound), take the Northeast Eighth Street exit and head west. Turn right on 108th Avenue Northeast, and just before Northeast 12th Street, turn right into the museum parking lot.

Bus: Metro and Sound Transit buses stop at the Bellevue Transit Center (about six blocks away). More information: 206-553-3000 or 800-201-4900, or http://tripplanner.metrokc.gov or www.soundtransit.org.

For more information: 425-455-1116 or www.dollart.com.

Cathy McDonald, a Renton-based freelance writer, is a regular contributor to Northwest Weekend.

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