Yesterday, museums around the country participated in Museum Day
, an event connected to Smithsonian Magazine
, in which they opened their doors to some visitors* for free. My husband, Karl, and I took advantage of this to visit a new museum here in Tucson, The Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
, which turned out to be based on the miniatures collection of one woman. (I didn't catch her name while we were there and it turns out that the website offers very little information about the collection or its source, possibly because they are so new--their grand opening celebration is scheduled for next month.)
In a small room off the lobby we watched a professionally-produced video about miniatures that employed an interesting "trick" in which the narrator is "magically" transported from the screen into a miniature setting to the right of the screen. Also in this small chamber were: a full-sized violin which had been modified to serve as a showcase for a number of miniature violins; a full-sized cut crystal decanter and wine glasses, along with a miniature version, also cut crystal, which had been made by the same artisan; and a miniature armoire which housed a doubly-miniaturized set of furnished rooms which if I understand correctly, would have been at 144th scale.
The main collection was housed in several interconnected rooms and each room had a main theme. The Fantasy room was divided into sections, the nature of which was suggested by a huge "tree" in the center of the room, one side of which sported a kindly face, and the other a more sinister countenance. The trunk of the tree was somewhere between three and four feet in diameter, I think, and provided little windows into dioramas with mouse themes. One the friendly side, the dioramas were of fairies, cute anthropomorphized animals, and similar fantasy figures. There was one wonderful setting that was quite castle-like, with wizards and dragons and such on the top two floors, and a grotto beneath in which mermaids swam through a resin sea. On the more ominous side of the room were figures with Halloween themes. The entire room was clearly put together with a lot of imagination and love, but was slightly disappointing to our adult eyes (the kids around us were enchanted) as many of the figures were commercially available modern miniatures. We almost left after just that one room, but decided to give the historical section a try and were very glad we did.
In the History rooms were many, many miniatures and dioramas the vast majority of which appeared to be handmade and quite old. Had the museum housed only this part of the collection it would be well worth the trip. Many of the houses which contain the dioramas look to me as if they might once have been dollhouses, although the level of detail suggests that only the wealthiest children might have played with them. Of course, they may also have been built solely as display pieces, and many others clearly were. I think my biggest complaint in these rooms is that I would have loved to have seen a history of each piece, rather than the very simple plaques that identify the county, setting, and time period depicted (or possibly the date of the piece itself).
In the History section, we also met five teen-aged girls dressed in Lolita outfits
, including one who was in a Black Lolita outfit. Although I'd heard of this fashion before, I'd not encountered it before and didn't immediately recognize it, so I had to stop them and ask. They were very nice about it and quite willing to explain. I mentioned that the local science fiction convention, TusCon 36
, which has got to be the best kept secret in Tucson, is planning on having a Steampunk-themed Cosplay event
this year and the face of one girl lit up, while the others were at least mildly interested. Who knows, maybe I'll see them there this November.
* Why not all visitors? I can't tell you. In order to take advantage of this offer, I had to print a "ticket" which allowed me and one other person free entry. I would have preferred a more generous policy, and one which wasn't dependent upon an Internet connection and being in the know, although I was very glad for the opportunity to do something I wouldn't otherwise have done, since we're watching our pennies carefully while I'm looking for a new job.