Our Collections

We are proud of the  collections, artifacts exhibits and historical rooms that illustrate the unique cultural diversity of  the world  and our Metropolitan Detroit community 

International Doll Collection

In 1994, the International Institute was surprised to receive a letter from Ethel Averbach, a woman from New York who was, up until then, unknown to us.  Ms. Averbach wrote that she had been collecting dolls since she was small child in the early  years of the 20th century. Even  from  those early years of her childhood, she said that she dreamed of  collecting dolls from all over the world, dressed in native costume.  She related that she began her world-wide quest by writing letters to the world's leaders in which she introduced herself  as a little girl with a dream to collect dolls from around the world, asking that they send her a doll dressed in the native costume of their land. Much to her surprise, many countries replied by sending her a package containing the requested doll. This was only the beginning of a life-long pursuit of doll-collecting.  Our donor traveled all over the world adding many more dolls to a collection that eventually numbered over 2,500 dolls from 150 countries.


In her communications with the International Institute, Ms. Averbach explained she was concerned that, when she passed on, her doll collection would not be appreciated and would "scatter to the wind."  While alive, she wanted to ensure that her collection would be  displayed for others  to enjoy and to appreciate the world's richly diverse cultural heritages.  She explained she had spent much time researching museums and other organizations, all over the United States, and chose the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit to receive her donation.

The Board of Directors of the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit sent a representative to New York to meet with Mrs. Averbach and gratefully accepted her donation. She was later invited to visit Detroit and attended a function in her honor, where many supporters of the International Institute personally thanked her for her generosity and for her global vision.

The International Institute now proudly displays the Ethel Averbach International Doll Collection, the world’s largest collection of dolls dressed in native costumes. Thirty-five showcases of exhibits feature antique to contemporary dolls, as well as teddy bears, artifacts, and miniatures from around the world.

Visitors are welcome during regular  business hours and when the exhibit area is not closed for private functions.

Kindly call ahead for details to (313) 871-8600.




The William S. Knudsen Room

The Knudsen Room at the International Institute  honors the memory of William S.Knudsen (1879-1948). His is a true success story of immigration to the United States. Born of humble beginnings in Denmark, he immigrated to the United States, passing through Ellis Island in New York. He eventually made his way to Detroit and, in time, became the President of General Motors.

As World War II broke out, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Knudsen to oversee command of all U.S. war production and he was commissioned a three star general in the U.S. Army. Detroit became the “Arsenal of Democracy,” and a major factor in the Allied victory in World War II, in large part through the efforts of William S. Knudsen.

A large portrait of William S. Knudsen proudly hangs in the lobby of the International Institute. The Knudsen Room contains a fireplace, reminiscent of the original at the Detroit International Institute's cottage at Adams and Witherell, in Downtown Detroit, that once welcomed immigrants to the Detroit area starting in 1919.

The International Institute is grateful to the Knudsen family for its support of the International Institute through the years. For more information on William S. Knudsen, click on the image at right to enlarge it.

Lucille Miller International Cultural Artifacts Exhibit

Lucille and her late husband, Marshall, spent several years traveling all over the world and meeting people from every corner of the globe. During their decades of travel, they accumulated many fascinating cultural artifacts. The International Institute is honored and very grateful that these artifacts have been donated by Ms. Miller to be an
important addition to the Museum of International Cultural Artifacts, housed at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit. The Miller collection is available for viewing at this time by appointment. The collection represents artifacts from the following locations:

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  • Easter Island
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Afghanistan
  • Burma
  • Nepal
  • South Africa N’Debele Tribe
  • Yugoslavia
  • Syria
  • Papua New Guinea – Ongae Tribe
  • Masai Tribe
  • Hong Kong
  • Brazil
  • Ecuador
  • India
  • Kenya – Turkana Tribe
  • Ethiopia
  • Turkey
  • Israel
  • Mexico
  • Japan
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Indonesia
  • China
  •  Poland
  • Germany
  • Haiti
  • Peru
  • Guatemala
  • Bolivia
  • Wyoming, USA Cheyenne Indian
  • Wyoming USA Sioux Indian
  • Tonga
  • Jordan
  • Uganda
  • Philippines
  • Yeman

Miles Memorial Lobby

In September of 2011, the Lobby of the International Institute Building was named in honor of Cyril and Arnold Miles – “The Cyril and Arnold Miles Memorial Lobby.” The International Institute is extremely grateful for the generous memorial bequest by Cyril
 and Arnold Miles that made possible the recent renovations of the beautiful Lobby that welcomes hundreds of new immigrants and other visitors to the International Institute Building on a daily basis. We are also grateful to the nieces and nephews of Cyril and Arnold Miles for their support.


Cyril, beloved friend and teacher, had the unique ability to bring her art, her experience and her focus to every project she undertook. As founder of the Ethnic Enrichment Experience programs, her vision and scholarly research enhanced the quality of her workshops for people of all ages. She brought a sense of history and compassion to her work. Through her all-encompassing sense of humanity, Cyril was able to showcase the common thread of universal expression that, through the arts, binds together the diverse cultures of the world.

Folk Art Curator 1944-1993

A plaque on the Lobby wall reads: International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, Inc. In Loving Memory of Cyril Miles 1918 – 1993 Artist, Educator, Art Historian

Wilkinson Immigrant Model Ship Collection

The International Institute is very grateful to Lawrence Scripps Wilkinson and the generosity of the Wilkinson family for the kind donation of the Wilkinson Immigrant Model Ship Collection. The collection consists of 165 scale model ships, ranging from three-masted 18th century sailing ships to modern cruise ships, as well as paintings, posters, and other memorabilia of the proud legacy of immigration to the United States. Each ship carried, at one time or another, immigrants from distant points around the world to the United States. The ship collection is housed in protective glass cases on permanent display in the American Room at the International Institute building.


The collection is available for viewing during hours the International Institute building is open, unless the American Room is being used for a class, meeting, or other function. Please call the International Institute, at (313) 871-8600, to check for availability and to plan your visit. A trip to the International Institute to see our International Doll Collection and Immigrant Model Ship Collection, followed by a delicious lunch at our International Cafe restaurant, makes for a great afternoon.