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Coleman family papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2023.coleman
The Coleman family papers contain draft manuscripts, correspondence, reference materials, notes, photographs, and other materials created or used by Dorothy, Evelyn, and Elizabeth (Ann) Coleman in preparation of their well-known books. These materials include complete copies of draft manuscripts with annotations for Dolls: Makers and Marks (1963), The Age of Dolls (1965), The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Dolls, Volume 1 (1968), The Collector’s Book of Doll Clothes (1975), and The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Dolls, Volume 2 (1986). The Colemans’ reference files for doll clothes, dollhouses, mechanical toys, and other toys are also contained in this collection. Additionally, there are planning materials for the Colemans’ doll videos, doll tours, and consultations. More information can be found in the Contents List section of this finding aid.

The Coleman family papers have been arranged into two series, one of which has been further divided into subseries. The physical materials are housed in 31 archival document boxes, two flat file boxes, and one audiovisual materials box (34 boxes in total). Digital materials are accessible on-site at The Strong.


  • 1867 - 2022
  • Majority of material found within 1963 - 1996


The majority of this collection is in English, with some instances of German and French throughout.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, she has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


20 Linear Feet (31 archival document boxes, 2 flat file boxes, 1 a/v box)

168 Gigabytes (Digital materials) : Accessible on-site at The Strong.


The Coleman family papers are a comprehensive compilation of materials from the professional careers of Dorothy, Evelyn (“Jane”), and Elizabeth (“Ann”) Coleman related to dolls and doll history. (Some personal papers are included in this collection as well.) The bulk of the papers are dated between 1963 and 1996.

Biographical Note

Dorothy E. (Smith) Coleman and her two daughters, Elizabeth (“Ann”) and Evelyn (“Jane”), were self-educated authorities in the world of dolls and doll collecting. Beginning in the 1960s, the trio worked together to research, write, photograph, and publish some of the most respected volumes on antique dolls and doll clothing. Their book credits include Dolls: Makers and Marks (1963), The Age of Dolls (1965), The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Dolls, Volume 1 (1968), The Collector’s Book of Doll Clothes (1975), and The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Dolls, Volume 2 (1986). For more than three decades, the Colemans amassed examples, gave lectures, consulted with doll groups, and led international tours to teach participants about dolls and doll history. Artifacts from the legendary “Coleman Collection” of dolls have been used in publications, conference talks, and educational videos.

Ann Coleman is retired from her distinguished career in the museum world (working in the curatorial departments of the Newark Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston). She founded the Costume Society of America in 1974 and has been a long-time member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC), the International Council Museum, and the Textile Society of America, among other groups. As of 2023, she continues to serve as a consultant for various organizations and travels around the world.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Professional papers, 1867-2022 and n.d.

Subseries A: Books, 1962-1997 and n.d.
Subseries B: Doll tours and travels, 1968-2005 and n.d.
Subseries C: Videos, 1987-2022
Subseries D: Consultations and appraisals, 1967-2005 and n.d.
Subseries E: Reference files, 1867-2007 and n.d.

Series II: Personal papers, 1909-1973

Custodial History

The Coleman family papers were donated to The Strong in January 2015 and April 2022 as a gift from Elizabeth Ann Coleman. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object IDs 115.89 (January 2015) and 122.1567 (April 2022). The papers were received from Ann Coleman in 14 boxes, along with several boxes of 19th-20th century children’s books, books on dolls, and other playthings.

Related Materials

Elizabeth Ann Coleman has participated in two oral history interviews for The Strong; the video recordings and transcripts can be accessed via Preservica here. Ann Coleman has also donated many books and reference materials to the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, May-June 2023
Finding Aid to the Coleman Family Papers, 1867-2022
Julia Novakovic
7 June 2023
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)