The Gift of Dolls

The Gift of Dolls

Sept. 30–Nov. 14, except Oct. 13–15 and 20–22

The 1927 Friendship Doll Exchange created a bond of friendship between Japanese and American schoolchildren. On the 90th anniversary of the exchange, this exhibit celebrates the “Miss Nagasaki” Ambassador Doll and other objects that give us hope for the future.


Miss Nagasaki's Story

Nagasaki Tamako, also known as Miss Nagasaki, is an Ambassador Doll—one of 58 sent from Japan to America in 1927 as part of an exchange of dolls between children of each country. The dolls' mission is to promote understanding between nations through friendship among children. Nagasaki Tamako has been in the collection of the Rochester Museum & Science Center since 1929.

Her story spans nearly 100 years: with beginnings as a goodwill gesture in 1927, she travelled throughout the United States, spent decades under the wrong name, was reidentified as a result of a researcher's quest, and now carries out her renewed mission in another century. Many children and adults have been drawn into her story over time, and her message of peace and goodwill remains as profound today as when she first began her journey.

Friendship doll exchanges continue to touch multiple generations, and their messages of peace and understanding have an added significance in post-war times. Let Nagasaki Tamako and the other objects in this exhibition both link you to another time and provide inspiration for the future.

Why was Miss Nagasaki's identity mistaken?

MissNagasakiJapanEach of the Ambassador Dolls was provided with a stand, the base of which had a nameplate giving the doll's name in Japanese and English. These bases were the only identification for the doll. During their first two years in America, the dolls travelled all over the country and, in the process, some of the stands and dolls were inadvertently seperated and mixed up. Unfortunately, this meant that many dolls could no longer be properly identified.

When the RMSC received its doll in 1929, the doll's base read "Miss Aomori." However, 71 years later in 2000, the doll's true identify was discovered!

Friendship doll researcher Michiko Takaoka, Director of the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, had seen a photograph of Miss Nagasaki before she left Japan that had been preserved by a citizen of Nagasaki. It showed the pattern of her kimono very clearly and this pattern matched the one on the kimono of the doll at the Rochester Museum & Science Center. 

What has Miss Nagasaki's life in Rochester been like?

When Miss Nagasaki first arrived in Rochester in 1927, then thought to be Miss Aomori, she was displayed with all of her accessories in an exhibit at the Rochester Museum & Science Center. Since then, she has been part of numerous exhibits and has also been enjoyed by countless students in a School Service Program. 

In 2000, when her true identity was uncovered, she travelled back to Nagasaki for a visit so that those who remembered her could see her once again and so that younger people could learn the story and her message of peace. A news article from her homecoming is pictured below.

In recent years, she has been stored for safekeeping in RMSC Collections where her story was preserved and cared for along with our 1.2 million other collection items that speak to Rochester's heritage.

We're delighted to bring Miss Nagasaki back out into the museum in this exhibition to once again be enjoyed by the Rochester community.


Nagasaki News Article


Celebrate Miss Nagasaki's 90th Birthday

Saturday, Oct. 7–Monday, Oct. 9: 11am–3pm

Enjoy a special occasion to participate in ongoing cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States in a long weekend of family-friendly activities. Fold paper cranes, write letters to Japan and craft a friendship bracelet to express your hope for the future. 

Support an Opportunity for Cultural Exchange

Ninety years ago, a ground-breaking doll exchange took place between Japanese and American children. Today, the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC), in collaboration with others, is developing an exhibition to celebrate this 1927 Friendship Doll Exchange as an act of ongoing friendship and hope. In that same spirit of friendship and hope, we are asking for your support to help provide our community with a unique opportunity to participate in a cultural exchange 90 years in the making.



Thanks to Our Supporters

The Gift of Dolls was made possible, in part, the Japan Foundation, New York, which supported travel expenses for Grand Opening Symposium participants. We would also like to extend special thanks to the Rochester Public Library, the Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library, and Cornell University. 

Japan Foundation LogoRochester Public Library logo

Cornell University Logo Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library logo

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