Shameless publicity post: Why I’m glad I finally went to a dollhouse museum

“Isnt this just absolutely a-mazing?” a woman asks me as she leisurely strolls by. She’s like a botanist in a greenhouse, inspecting each plant and flower, deciphering expertly flora and species. Gazing into the Versailles Hunting Lodge, France, circa 1900, I respond, “I know! You’d have to spend all day in here just to notice everything.”

” Yes…yes…,” she says, walking away, in a wandering daze, toward The Pink House, America, circa 1970. She and I were the only visitors of the village of Copper Hollow, a fictional land of 100 years ago. We were currently at Mansion Avenue, where nannies push strollers, men pot plants and boys fidget and misbehave inside Miss Ida Strombeckers Preparatory School for Boys. There’s actually a kid wailing underneath the piano.

“It’s so beautiful,” she says and asks me where I’m from. I tell her I live here in town. She’s from Michigan. “Do you do miniatures?” she asks.

“Oh no,” I laughed. “I dont.” I’m not even sure 45 minutes earlier I would have had any idea what a question like that might have meant. Or implied. I didn’t think to ask her if she “did miniatures” before she exited Copper Hollow to find someone I think was her friend, a woman around her age I’d seen earlier, wandering thoughtfully by the 1800s Mexican village.

Later on we’d talk more: she was on a two-week road trip with her friend. Her friend did all the driving, which is the only way she’d been able to go on the trip. They’d stopped at Lori Kagan-Moore’s Great American Dollhouse Museum in Danville, Ky., on their way to Florida. I could tell from their excitement at the cash register and the small purchases in their hands that they both “did miniatures.”

I’d never been in a dollhouse museum until that Friday afternoon, taking what would turn out to be a nearly two-hour lunch. What I kept thinking, walking through the displays of stories and lives, is that this was way better than a movie. If I had a friend with me, I could point things out, laugh, gasp, and make comments without pausing the film or annoying the friend. And I could make up dialogue for the characters, which, as I soon realized, is more fun when you’re not by yourself.

It was like being inside a non-fiction story book. Or a scrapbook of days gone by. It was fun. Who would’ve thought?

As I examined the British colonial houses, the Underground Railroad and the Shaker villages, I realized what a great method this was of sneaking history and anthropology lessons into our lives. Farming methods, the mother role in the Old South, family values in an 1800s Mexican village. What kind of beverages upper-middle-class 1970s Americans drank outside by the pool. (It was a cloudy day; I spent a lot of time gazing at that pool and those martini glasses.)

Looking to do something outside your ordinary? Go to Lori’s Dollhouse Museum. Or go to some dollhouse musuem. Humans love being a part of a group, an exclusive club based on interests, passions, expertise. Marketers realize this, at least the smart ones who’ve read up on neuromarketing.

I don’t “do miniatures.” Unless you count Hershey’s. But I thoroughly enjoyed being around Lori and my two new friends from Michigan who belong to this niche of collector.

How else would I have learned how resiliant Miss Ida is, playing that piano, with all those naughty boys misbehaving around her? And I will confess: once, I leaned forward to look more closely inside a mansion, and I hit my head on the plastic display. Luckily, the misses of Michigan were exploring elsewhere, oblivious to my novice faux pas.

Visit The Great American Dollhouse Museum web site for directions, exhibit details and artist information.

P.S.: For the sake of full disclosure, Lori and I are going to work on some publicity together for the museum. But I totally wouldn’t have written this if it weren’t true!

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12 thoughts on “Shameless publicity post: Why I’m glad I finally went to a dollhouse museum

  1. Annabel Girard says:

    It is an amazing place. I can hardly wait until my granddaughter is here and I can take her there — and perhaps her parents. We forget all the treasurers Danville has to offer.

    • abbymalikpr says:

      We certainly do, Annabel! That’s one thing Lori talked about – the gems in Danville and the need for togetherness. Visitors of the museum might want a place to eat lunch – so why not give them some great choices of independent restaurants downtown, just a few blocks away? It’s a sure sign of a tight community, when businesses watch out for each other like that. Yikes. Now I’m craving a Torino wrap from The Hub.

  2. Thanks for the great review, Abby! I enjoyed having you!

  3. This was so much fun to read through, thank you for sharing your experience! 🙂

  4. Want to see pictures? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGTtVgOlr2A Lotsa pics.

    OR, ABC News video story (only 2 minutes long): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URiEy4ineSc

    And while I’m advertising, please feel free to visit the museum on Facebook and become a fan!

    Thanks! Lori

  5. E. says:

    Good blog! I love the Dollhouse Museum, too– I’ve visited it several times and always seem to discover new things each time. It’s truly a unique experience– one might expect something of this quality in Lexington or Louisville, but to find it in a small town like Danville is highly unusual.

    I think there’s a misconception out there that because it has dollhouses, only women and children will find it interesting, but it’s definitely not just for kids! The guys who visited the Museum with me enjoyed the historical perspective and the topnotch craftsmanship just as much as, if not more than, I did!

    The other great thing about the Museum is that you can rent it out for parties and weddings. One of my friends held a birthday party for her 6 year old there– they did scavenger hunts and all kinds of cool activities. And I’ve attended several terrific “grown up” parties there– it’s a wonderful setting!

  6. Alice Zinn says:

    As a professional miniaturist, some of whose work is in the GADM, I can tell you that EVERY miniautres museum around th world is wonderfully different, so in this case, if you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen ’em all!

    I’m going to be teaching in Danville at the museum in April, and if you’d like to see what, and learn more:
    http://www.thedollhousemuseum.com/
    Hope to see you there!

    • For those of you who don’t “do” miniatures (except Hershey’s!), Alice Zinn is a marvelous artisan, very well known and loved among those who “do” miniatures, and she will be leading a workshop at the museum on April 20. She’ll be teaching both the advanced miniaturist and the novice how to do mother of pearl inlay in an Asian crane and tree design. We’re all really excited to have this opportunity to work with her!

  7. Barb Bohlk says:

    One can not visit this museum enough. Each time I go, I find something different and entertaining. Lori is doing a wonderful job of teaching history through miniatures. Only those who “do miniatures” can fully understand the amazing work she has completed. Hope she gets more publicity and LOTS more visitors. Doing my part…wear the T-shirt everywhere!

  8. Anne McCall says:

    The museum building itself is fabulous – an old Works Progress Administration building (a former armory, if I remember correctly) that The Kagan-Moore team renovated to house the museum. It has a high barrel-vault ceiling and tall deep windows. Beautiful light. What can I say? These kind of architectural features thrill me! And yes, the dollhouses are astonishing, each one carefully furnished with miniatures and specially-made dolls arranged as participants in stories that thread throughout the exhibits. The Great American Dollhouse Museum really is a treasure trove with something to engage everyone in the family. (Oh, and little boys will be pleased to examine the many trolls and flying dragons in the Cave and Fantasy Forest part of the museum.)

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