UNCG Alumna Runs a “Barbie World” at Doll and Toy Museum

Posted on August 10, 2023

UNCG alum Saskia Lascarez Casanova adjusts a doll the NC Museum of Dolls, Toys, and Miniatures.

A UNC Greensboro (UNCG) alumna is running her own “Barbie world” at the North Carolina Museum of Dolls, Toys, and Miniatures (NCMDTM).

Saskia Lascarez Casanova ’22 M.A. is the museum administrator of the small museum in Spencer, North Carolina. Fellow alumna Jasmin Zamora-Cuna ’22 M.A. previously served as the museum assistant but left the post for another opportunity in August. The pair graduated together from UNCG’s history and museum studies master’s program.


With such a small staff, Lascarez Casanova has many responsibilities, including curation, content writing, marketing, and collections. The museum is also planning a move to a new location, which she is helping to make happen. 

Museum administrator Saskia Lascarez Casanova (right) and former museum assistant Jasmin Zamora-Cuna (left) graduated together from UNCG’s master’s degree program in history and museum studies.

“UNCG really helped me prepare me for this role. The faculty were instrumental in my realization that I wanted to do curation work,” says Lascarez Casanova.

“Our museum studies program helped prepare us for anything,” says Zamora-Cuna, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in history and archaeology from UNCG. “The program showed us how to be flexible with themes and histories we are not familiar with and how we can use our skills to maneuver through our work.”

The NCMDTM is the only museum of its kind in North Carolina and one of only a handful of nonprofit museums of its type in the nation. The museum was founded in 2012 by the Morris and Nance families to honor their daughter and sister Amy Dawn Morris. Amy was a passionate collector of dolls and miniatures but passed away from Werdnig-Hoffman Disease.

Today, the NCMDTM holds thousands of items, including the largest known Shirley Temple doll, Schoenhut Humpty-Dumpty, and a collection of Bob Mackie-designed Barbie dolls. Mackie-designed Barbies are highly sought after and can carry a high price tag. The Hollywood designer has made outfits for some of the biggest names in the music industry including Cher, Pink, Diana Ross and the Supremes.

The recent craze around the “Barbie” movie has also put a newfound spotlight on the doll.

“I played with Barbies as a child and that was the doll that I knew,” says Lascarez Casanova, who is from Concord, North Carolina. “So, we’ve had to do research and read up about different doll makers, thinking about how to talk about history and what was going on in the U.S. during each time period through these playthings, dolls, and miniatures.”


The museum has opened Lascarez Casanova’s eyes to the wide range of doll makers, dolls, and what can be learned from them.

“It’s incredible to realize how many doll makers were women,” says Lascarez Casanova. “They were first generation, a lot of them coming from European countries.

One of Lascarez Casanova’s favorite pieces is a three-level dollhouse created by Florida designer Chris Ernst.

“The designer created everything in the landscape. So even inside the house, she created the rugs, curtains, and bedding for every single room,” says Lascarez Casanova. “It’s the attention to detail and how long it must have taken to put the whole house together that makes it one of my favorites.”

This intricate doll house designed by Chris Ernest is one of Lascarez Casanova’s favorite pieces in the museum.
The museum features a large collection of Raggedy Ann dolls.
The museum features a wide collection of Barbies.
The museum’s oldest doll.


Lascarez Casanova started her collegiate career later in life. She originally wanted to be an interior designer, but when the housing market crashed in 2007, she decided to switch gears.

“After a few years, I realized I really liked history and I like learning about history from others,” she says.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in public history and an internship at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame Museum cemented her desire to enter the museum field.

“I wanted to find a master’s program in North Carolina because I didn’t want to move away from home anymore,” Lascarez Casanova says. “So, I reached out to Dr. Anne Parsons who helped me apply for the program.”

After graduation in 2022, Lascarez Casanova landed a fellowship with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino. She also continued to do work with the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. But when it came time to find another job, it was Dr. Parsons who drew her attention to NCMDTM.

“Dr. Parsons mentioned there was a museum in Spencer that was looking for help and she knew I lived close by,” says Lascarez Casanova.

Lascarez Casanova started the position in December 2022 and has been operating the museum since. Just like “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig, Lascarez Casanova is focused on telling innovative stories through dolls – and connecting them to real life.

“I’ve learned a lot about how to make diverse and inclusive narratives for all audiences, so they feel welcomed in a museum,” she says. “One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from UNCG is making sure everything is accessible.”

The NCMDTM is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications



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