Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House
06 July 2017
This summer visitors to Weston Park Museum will have the chance to explore the fascinating stories behind some of the UK’s best-loved dolls’ houses in a new exhibition on tour from the V&A Museum of Childhood.
Opening on Saturday 5 August, Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House will take visitors on a journey through the history of the home through 12 intricately crafted dolls’ houses spanning over 300 years. Marriages, parties, politics and crime play out in country mansions, suburban villas, newly-built council estates and high-rise apartments, as each house is brought to life by the characters that live and work there.
The houses show developments in architecture and design, from ornate Georgian townhouses to contemporary urban living spaces. Each house is displayed in interactive showcases that allow visitors to activate audio narration and illuminate characters as they share their story.
The Tate Baby House dating from 1760 was owned by the same family for at least five generations, passed down from mother to eldest daughter. It includes original wallpapers and painted panelling in the style of architect Robert Adam, as well as a lying-in room for a pregnant doll. The story of this house centres on the rising status of three generations of Georgian women.
The Killer House was a gift from surgeon John Egerton Killer to his wife and daughters in the 1830s. This Chinese-style cabinet is lavishly appointed with gilded wallpapers, four-poster bed and liveried servants. The story focuses on the servants’ ongoing struggle for cleanliness and hygiene in the industrial city.
Whiteladies House was designed and by artist Moray Thomas in the 1930 and reflects some of the Modernist country villas that were emerging at the time. Features include chrome furniture, a cocktail bar and artworks by British Futurist Claude Flight, as well as a swimming pool. Its story centres on a house party, with revellers enjoying the pool and sunbathing on the roof.
The Hopkinson House is based on the houses in 1930s suburbs. The interiors show a Second World War-era family in intricate detail, poised for an air-raid, with miniature gasmasks, ration books and torches for the blackouts.
Kaleidoscope House (2011) was house was designed by Laurie Simmons. Its multicoloured translucent walls are filled with miniature replicas of furniture and artworks by Ron Arad, Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger. The house is home to a design conscious step-family living in the new millennium.
The V&A Museum of Childhood’s collections will be complemented by a dolls’ house from Sheffield’s own collection, on show in the museum’s main thoroughfare.
Kirstie Hamilton, Head of Exhibitions and Displays at Museums Sheffield. says:
“We’re delighted to continue our partnership with the V&A with this exhibition. Small Stories offers a unique window on how we used to live through these wonderful examples of meticulous craftsmanship, some of the stars of the V&A Museum of Childhood’s collection. We’re thrilled to be able to bring the exhibition to Sheffield to share with our visitors at Weston Park Museum.”
Alice Sage, Exhibition Curator at the V&A Museum of Childhood said:
“Dolls’ houses can be autobiographical or create fantastical worlds. These special spaces are deposits for real memories, fanciful ideas and often a lifetime of dedication. The experience of peeking into the tiny rooms and seeing all the meticulous detail is fascinating for children and adults, and hopefully everyone will discover something new. Our research for the exhibition uncovered new characters and stories in the histories of these objects, and now we are using them to bring the houses to life by creating a small story for each of these well-loved houses.”
Museums Sheffield will celebrate the launch of the exhibition with a free, fun-packed day of family activities on Saturday 5 August, 11am-4pm. On the day visitors can enjoy a range of creative sessions inspired by life in miniature, as well as face painting, music and more.
Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House continues at Weston Park Museum until 7 January 2018 – entry is free.