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In September of 1975, Miss Lynne Dishier, a recent graduate of Memphis State University, attended the Pink Palace’s second auction held at the Willow Road Community Center. Miss Dishier had just returned from a year teaching in France. She attended the auction out of curiosity; she had no expectations of placing a winning bid. The auction was starting to wind down after a few of the bigger pieces sold. That was when she saw the lot of three dolls, male and female “Chinese servant” dolls or “puppets”, and a “Chinese boy” doll. The doll’s owners loaned them to the museum in 1938. In 1968 Mr. Joseph Shirk formally donated them in memory of his mother, Mrs. Milton Shirk.

chinese dolls

The late 1960s saw a change in leadership at the museum. Mrs. Ruth Bush, a former teacher who had been the director since 1950, retired and Robert P. Sullivan, the museum’s first professionally trained director, was hired. Mr. Sullivan was very clear that he wanted to focus our collecting efforts on objects from the Mid-South area. The museum was also in dire need of funding for exhibit expansion.  These reasons culminated in the Spring and Summer auctions of 1975.


Miss Dishier remembered seeing the female servant doll on display when she was visiting the museum as a child in the late 1950s. She loved the female servant doll with her blue dress and her kind face.  When she saw that no other auctioneers were bidding on her, she knew she had to have her. She won the bid—the dolls were valued at $25 apiece; she won all three for $12.50. They remained on display in her glass cabinet for almost 40 years. In 2015, the Pink Palace’s Collections Department began searching for items sold at the auctions for a new exhibit. When museum staff asked Mrs. Lynne Dishier Hamlin if she still had the Chinese dolls, they were astounded (after calling dozens of people, who no longer had the auction items in their possession) that she did! She came to visit the Museum with all three dolls in tow. She was willing to part with the boy doll, but not the two servant dolls. In her words “I’m so glad somebody wanted him [the Chinese boy doll]. I never felt like I fully appreciated him. He was a little too fancy for me.”


After forty years, Mrs. Lynne Dishier Hamlin returned an auctioned artifact back to the museum. It was definitely a happy homecoming.


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