McDonnell, a Reston resident, manages Fairfax County's Sully Historic Site, built in 1794 as the home of Richard Bland Lee, Robert E. Lee's uncle. The site hosts an exhibit of antique and unique dolls until Jan. 25. Find out more at

Tell me about the doll collection.

We have about 80 dolls on loan to us from a few collectors, from our volunteers and staff, and we have two that are from our historic collection of the Fairfax County Park Authority. The two from our collection are the oldest dolls. The oldest one is from 1860; the other one is from 1890.

What's the story of the doll from 1860?

She's an African-American "Mammy" doll. We don't have a lot of background on her. She was given to the Park Authority about 20 years ago or so. She's about 15 inches tall, made of cloth and in particularly good shape. The doll from 1890 is a German doll with a porcelain face. She's very interesting to look at.

What's your favorite doll?

There are two small dolls from Spain. They're really beautiful. There's a lot of details in the dress, and the man's outfit is really outstanding.

How did you get the idea for the doll display?

I was cleaning out some boxes at home and came across some dolls and was thinking it'd be nice to see who has dolls out there. The ideas started coming together. I thought around the holiday time it'd be neat to see them.

What do you think the dolls show about humanity?

Dolls go back thousand and thousands of years, and they've been toys for children. I think it's just really interesting how we still hold on to them today. And it's really popular to collect dolls. I have dolls, and my daughter has dolls.

- Liz Essley