One of the premier dollhouse museums in the United States is the Museum of Miniature Houses and other Collections located in Carmel, Indiana. The museum contains well loved and well used dollhouses that might not be quite to scale and miniature masterpieces such as one of the Thorne miniature rooms created by Mrs. James Thorne. The museum came about through the efforts of three women artisans who were determined to preserve miniatures and dollhouses and provide a place where the public could see some of the best examples of the art form. The Museum has over 600 miniatures from individual items to dollhouses and shadow or room boxes.
There are permanent miniature and dollhouse collections and special collections that change every quarter and are on loan from collectors and museums from all over the world. A dollhouse is that is a current special on loan exhibit is the Jacquie Mitchell Mansion. This twenty three room mansion was originally created as a model for the dream home that Jacquie Mitchell and her husband Ed were contemplating building on the grounds of a local golf and country club. After serving as a model, the dollhouse was ignored while the Mitchell’s raised their family and it wasn’t till the children were grown that Jacquie decided to decorate and furnish the dollhouse model. She took classes in decoupage, tole and faux painting so she could use these skills in the miniature home. The finished dollhouse contains five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a crafts and sewing room, in addition to more formal living areas. Mrs. Mitchell often purchased inexpensive miniature items which she then recreated in a formal European style with new upholstery and new finishes.
The permanent collection includes a variety of miniature gems such as the California Contemporary House created by Bernice Wolf, a well known interior designer. This modern home features a swimming pool, an Oriental garden, and even a rooftop lounging area. One of the most famous miniatures in the collection is one of Mrs. James Ward Thorne’s miniature rooms. Sixty eight of the finished rooms are on exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. All of the room boxes or shadow boxes created by Mrs. Thorne are exquisite examples of miniature artistry.
An antique dollhouse from 1861 called the Russell House is another dollhouse that is on loan. The dollhouse was created by Thomas Russell who was from England and who gave the dollhouse to his niece. The dollhouse arrived along with a letter where he stated that he hoped the dollhouse would always be taken care of and that the caretaker might think kind memories of him from time to time.
If you can’t make it to Carmel, Indiana anytime soon, the museum site provides a virtual tour of the dollhouses and miniatures on Flickr.