“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!