The Museum has nominated "Grace Darling," a doll from our collection, to be one of Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts.

This campaign from the Virginia Association of Museums is designed to create awareness of the importance of preserving artifacts in care at museums, libraries and archives throughout the commonwealth and in the District of Columbia.

Your donation can move her closer to being ready for exhibition! 



Artifact Information

Physical description: Adult female doll is an unmarked German china shoulderhead doll with china arms and legs and a cotton-stuffed linen body. Hair is black molded and painted Flat Top hairstyle. Eyes are painted blue. Cheeks are painted rosy pink. Mouth is painted with darker-red lip accent line that dips in the center to form a small "V". Dress is silk taffeta , originally purple, green, and black (now faded to gray and black); white lace collar and undersleeves with a net petticoat, white petticoat, pantalets, and stockings. Shoes are black flats, believed patent leather (replacement). The doll is missing proper left hand.

History: This doll was named Grace Darling and was given to Sophia Strauss (ca. 1857-1940) when she was five years old in 1862, by a Confederate soldier, in Culpeper County, Virginia.  Sophia donated the doll to the Museum on May 15, 1939. "I have owned it for past 76 years.  I named her Grace Darling after the English Lighthouse Keeper's daughter [who rescued shipwreck survivors in 1838].  The doll was given to me in 1862 in Culpeper, Virginia by a Confederate soldier who was wounded in battle and was taken to my parents' home and nursed back to health by them.  The dress the doll has on was made out of a dress my mother [Caroline Strauss] had made in Culpeper in 1856 and is an exact copy of Mother's dress which was in an excellent state of preservation." According to another relative (ca. 1938), the doll originally had a different outfit for each day of the week, as well as a necklace and locket (supposedly a replica of the one her grandmother wore). See the full donation form here

  • The doll was manufactured by the Alt, Beck, and Gottschalck porcelain factory, from 1854 onward. Located in Stutzhaus and Nauendorf, near Ohrdruf, Thuringia, Germany. One of the oldest makers of doll heads.
  • The "real" Grace Darling helped her father rescue survivors of the shipwrecked SS Forfarshire. In 1838, the Forfarshire ran aground and foundered in a storm off the Farne Islands while on route from Hull, England to Dundee, Scotland. For more information, please see:    
  • “Grace Darling” was among several MOC dolls featured in a fairly recent magazine article titled  "Heads and Tales: True Stories of Civil War Dolls with Provenance," in Antique Doll Collector v. 15, no. 3 (April 2012).  She was also mentioned in an older book titled The Old and the Quaint in Virginia by Georgia Dickinson Wardlaw (Richmond: Dietz Press, 1939), p. 302-303.

Condition and Conservation

The doll is missing its left hand (porcelain), and the area of the break was poorly repaired. The back of its porcelain head is lightly cracked. The doll's silk dress is extremely fragile and shredding. The condition of the underclothes is difficult to assess, given the delicate nature of the silk dress covering them. Due to the deterioration of the artifact, it cannot be displayed. 

We need to have the doll assessed by fabric and porcelain conservators in order to get estimates for conservation. You can help conserve this doll and make her fit for exhibition by contributing here.