Dorothy Washburn, an independent museum consultant, developed a "public involvement" project for the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum in 1987. This oral history project selected the museum's doll collection as stimuli to prompt memories from women who had played with dolls between 1900 and 1940. With funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, Washburn conducted a four-month series of interviews with 97 area women.
Participants were interviewed in front of a display containing a selection of dolls from the decade in which they played with dolls. They were asked to identify dolls that were similar or identical to their own playthings and asked how they played with them. Then, the women were asked to sort a series of photographs two ways: by the dolls which they preferred and disliked, and by the way they thought of the dolls during play. Many participants also brought their own dolls to the museum and were able to share family photographs for the museum's reference. This public involvement program provided useful information for the museum. The participants became aware of how the ordinary items which they possessed had much to tell about history.