DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Dec 12 2014

A World in Miniature

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my fascination with small space living–or at least the idea of it. Related to this is my abiding love of dollhouses and their furnishings. From childhood, I have adored them, which doesn’t seem unusual–many young children like to create their own small worlds. Now I never had a “real” dollhouse like my friend Suzy Vass (three stories high and big enough for her Barbies!) but I did create my own on a bookshelf in my bedroom by cutting walls out of cardboard, decorating these with wrapping paper, and filling the rooms with furniture that I constructed from things lying around the house as well as the much more expensive manufactured pieces that I received for birthdays and Christmas. Most often the inhabitants were paper dolls that I’d colored and cut out to scale–and you can bet that such enterprises absorbed hours of my time.

I am also a big fan of museums and one of my favorites is the Art Institute of Chicago.  Here, you will find wonderful collections of textiles; European painting and sculpture; Asian, African and Native American art; Medieval and Renaissance armor and weapons, and one of the best collections of modern art anywhere. As well, the Institute boasts the Thorne Miniature Rooms collection which is a must see for any lover of dollhouses and miniatures. Narcissa Niblick Thorne was an artist who devoted most of her career to constructing miniature rooms fashioned on various historical interiors. Vivid and accurate in detail, the 68 rooms are stunning. Check them out here. And next time you are in Chicago, be sure to pay a visit to the Thorne Rooms yourself. It is well worth it. As a side note, Thorne never asked for or received payment for her rooms even though they were quite expensive to produce.

While you’re in Chicago, don’t miss another labor of love–Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, which is owned by the Museum of Science and Industry. Moore was a film star of the silent era who had loved dollhouses and miniatures throughout her life. As an adult, she decided to use her substantial financial resources and her influence as a major Hollywood star to commission the dollhouse of her dreams. The Fairy Castle is nearly nine feet square and exquisitely detailed–from the tiny copper pots in the kitchen to the wee harp in the bedroom of the Fairy Princess.

Other famous dollhouses include Queen Mary’s Doll House, which is on display at Windsor Castle in England, the Miniature White House now housed at the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont, Florida, and The Dolls’ House at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Would you like to do a little armchair tourism of some of these dollhouses? If so, check out these resources from DCPL:miniature

The White House in Miniature: Based on the White House Replica by John, Jan, and the Zweifel family by Gail Buckland

Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago by The Art Institute of Chicago

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House by Mary Stewart-Wilson

For more interesting dollhouses, be sure not to miss The Ultimate Dolls’ House Book by Faith Eaton and The Miniature House also by Eaton. The first bookultimate features the beautiful photographs and informative text that the publisher, Dorling Kindersley, is known for. The second showcases several of the finest examples of miniature houses and rooms, including the Thorne Rooms and the Fairy Castle. Also included are exhaustive histories of each house and detailed photographs (although not as many color ones as I would have liked). Both these books are highly recommended to any lover of dollhouses.

Do you love dollhouses? What have been some of your favorites?


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Jul 5 2010

Putt Putt Golf and Shetland Ponies

by Veronica W

Is it possible  that everyone has a hidden fascination with miniature things? For some reason little replicas of common, everyday items charm us. In childhood, boys (and some girls) varoom varoom with race cars, march with toy soldiers and shriek along with small versions of fire engines and ambulances.  Girls (and some boys) spend hours with dolls (mini me?) and dollhouses and have tea parties with miniature tea sets.  As we get older and our tastes become more sophisticated, we are no longer as excited by what we see, but who hasn’t looked at a Shetland pony and smiled? Atlanta’s Grant Park is the home of the Cyclorama, a miniature re-enactment of the “War Between the States” and it is popular with locals as well as tourists.

Although I don’t read alot of magazines, on occasion I have thumbed through Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping and Atlanta.   Never, in my most bored state, have I been interested in reading American Woodworker.  However, I live with someone who sleeps  in his tool belt  and of course has a subscription to this handyman’s magazine. As I picked it up one day to put it away, I saw that it was turned to the most beautifully detailed wooden replica of an old car that I have ever seen.  It turns out that this car was built by William Jackson, an artisan woodworker from Indiana. As I continued to read, I learned that the amazing Mr. Jackson was also commissioned by UPS to build a replica of their first delivery truck, a 1913 Model T Ford.  They were so pleased with it that they asked him to build 365,000 more-one for each of their employees. Since it took him 400 hours to make just one, he understandably declined.  I visited his website at www.woodenclassicwheels.com and spent a good bit of time marveling over his many, amazingly intricate creations.

Mr. Jackson and his incredible work ignited an investigative spark in me and I started hunting. I discovered a treasure trove of  delightful resources and information. While I don’t intend to make this a hobby (I don’t think), it was fun just to visit with those who have. Did you know that there is an organization devoted to miniatures? NAME is the National Association of Miniatures Enthusiasts and their website is a colorful, fun place to gawk in amazement.  There are other places that you can visit, in your car or online, which will further educate and amaze you.  The Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City and The Mini -Time Machine in Tucson provide a delightful introduction to the world of small.

Here’s a “Stumped You!”—In Oliver Twist, Mr. Bumble, in order to get rid of the “Please sir, I want more” little glutton, got him a job outside of the orphanage. What was it?  (Remember our topic.)

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