I enjoy the farm toy hobby and after a visit to the Museum of Miniatures and Other Collectibles Inc. I have a whole new appreciation for the hobbyists that create these marvels. I traveled with my mom, Lori Disque to Carmel, Indiana as part of a hosted trip to Hamilton County. Elaine Mancini, Executive Director of the Museum of Miniature Houses and Other Collections museum took us on an interesting and educational tour.
There is a lot to see! The museum’s collection contains over 600 miniatures including room boxes, houses, and exquisite individual items that have been created with painstaking attention to detail. “This is one of five museums devoted to miniatures,” Elaine explained.
“Miniatures are not doll houses, they are not meant to be played with. They are a precise size that you stick to.”
She said that most miniatures are created in the one inch scale, although some are 1/2 inch, and a few even in the 1/4 inch scale.
Those that create the miniatures are called a miniaturist and, often they usually stick to the time period they are building as well as size.
While miniatures are not necessarily doll houses, the museum does include some children’s doll houses that are not too scale, as well as small scale reproductions of items that become the contents of dollhouses, room boxes, vignettes, or settings that the miniaturist creates.
The museum came to be when three Indiana artisans created the museum to preserve and display scale miniatures and antique dollhouses, and to introduce this art form to others. Today the vision these three women had has insured that collections of quality miniature room settings, houses, and individual pieces are available to visitors and future generations.
The museum began in 1993 and over the years they have had over 85,000 visitors from all over the world. Although the miniatures as Elaine pointed out are not to be played with, children are very interested in the museum in fact, children comprise one-quarter of museum visitor ship. The website says it best, “Through miniatures, children learn the concept of architectural scale, the decorative arts, and the importance of detail.”
As we traveled from display to display, I marveled at all there is to see. Besides the houses, there are also miniature collections like the very cool decorative egg display built by egg decorator Carl Lenox. There was also a Briar horse display that the Abbott family expanded. They went to Lexington, Kentucky to learn what the proper saddle, clothing and accessories would be for each of the horses they displayed and had them outfitted to match.
“We called the Briar company and have arranged Briar Fun Days,” Elaine said.
The Briar Fun Days are great for kids to come and do activities and learn about miniatures in a unique way. I was impressed by the creative ways education comes into the miniature world.
One of our favorite houses was one devoted to Sherlock Holmes and the artist, Laverne Sullivan created clues and visitors can look and try to find them in her wonderful miniature exhibit. She also created a very cool Tower of London exhibit which includes what Elaine called, “A rare fully armored horse.”
The museum has a collections room and an antique room. “The oldest is a kitchen from 1829, I think this was a primer for a bride,” Elaine explained.
Another very cool model is what Elaine thinks was a real estate salesman sample Elaine said, “Is too precise to be a doll house.”
The house also has a very cool example of a John Wooten desk with doors that close . “You could lock it up,” Elaine said adding that at this time frame, “Paperwork was becoming an issue.”
Another children’s author built homes creating a story, then wrote a book to accompany them. There is also a neat house from the 1800’s that a man made for his niece.
One of the most precise exhibits is The Thorne room, made by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. “Mrs. Thorne is part of the Montgomery Ward family. She spent her whole adult life in Chicago and collected miniatures,” Elaine said.
The museum also has a very cool farm house and a display I know my granddaughter would love where the artist used 150 lights for a scene from Han Christian Anderson’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
Mrs. Thorne’s exquisite rooms tell the history of English and American interiors and sixty-eight of her rooms are on display at the Chicago Art Institute. The room that is on display at the Miniature Museum is of a bar scene that was auctioned off for charity. It was purchased by Mr. Levin, who then donated it to the museum.
A few houses were created by the founders of the museum and they are quite lovely each in their own way.
The current featured exhibit is The ‘Furnishing’ Touch. The exhibit according to the museum webpage, “tells a history of American home furnishings in miniature. Home furnishing styles were influenced by functional demands, means of production, and lifestyle behavior of the time. The exhibit traces styles beginning with The Mannerist style (1600-1700) that was popular with English settlers in America and ending with the Colonial Revival style that started in the 1870s and is still found in popular home trends today. This exhibit is supported by an Indiana Humanities Initiative grant that also allows the Museum to host three speakers who will deliver presentations on furniture and domestic life in March and April. See our events page for dates and speakers.”
The museum has many cool events that draw in a number of visitors like their annual candlelight tour held the 2nd Saturday in December. There are many other events to attend, or you can do like we did and come and visit and enjoy! Log onto the website at http://museumofminiatures.org/index.html for more information about this magical museum.