Renowned Scholar to Speak at UM About Rare Japanese Friendship Dolls

February 24, 2014

MISSOULA – Author Alan Scott Pate will present a lecture on two rare Japanese Friendship Dolls on view in the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana as part of the exhibition titled “The Japanese Woodblock Print: An Extension of the Impermanent.” His lecture is free and open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in the Montana Theatre of the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center.

In addition to the dolls, the exhibition includes historic Japanese woodblock prints from the MMAC Permanent Collection as well as the George and Claire Louden Collection, on loan from the Carr Gallery of the Idaho Falls Arts Council and traveling through the Montana Art Gallery Directors Association. The exhibition will be on view through Saturday, April 19, in the Meloy and Paxson galleries in the PAR/TV Center.

In 1927, the Japanese government sent 58 Friendship Dolls as a gesture of goodwill in response to the 12,739 “blue-eyed” dolls American children sent to Japan through the Committee on World Friendship Among Children earlier that same year. The 58 Japanese Friendship Dolls represent the 47 prefectures, four territorial holdings, six principal Japanese cities and the Imperial household.

The Friendship Dolls arrived first in the Port of San Francisco and were displayed as a single group for the only time in their history at the Kimnon Gakuen Japanese Cultural Center. Crafted by the most celebrated doll artists in Japan, each doll was outfitted in a silken kimono and with accessories such as lacquer ware furnishings, sandals, tea sets, personal gifts, a ship ticket and a passport. All of the dolls measure 32 inches in height and were designed with unique facial features.

The dolls appeared in nearly 500 different cities across the U.S. before being permanently placed in children’s museums, libraries and other cultural institutions, where they could continue to fulfill their mandate as ambassadors of friendship and goodwill. During World War II, many dolls were removed from display and forgotten.

Pate, who is the author of “Ningyô: The Art of the Japanese Doll” and “Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyô,” has researched and photographed the 47 known dolls for his upcoming publication, “Art as Ambassador: The Japanese Friendship Dolls of 1927.”

On view are Miss Tottori, courtesy of the Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre, S.D., and Miss Aomori, courtesy of Pate.

The MMAC’s hours during the academic year are noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit


Note to media: Digital images from the exhibitions are available. Call Shawn Whitworth at 406-243-2019 or email to request images.



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Contact: Brandon Reintjes, curator of art, Montana Museum of Art & Culture, 406-243-2019,