Across time and place we readily identify with domestic settings; from ancient Roman villas, to the round houses in the PNG highlands. We recognise domestic spaces used for sleeping, eating, washing etc. Like mini house museums, Anna Maria’s dolls’ houses are repositories of material culture of the Western era from 1957 – 2007. (see source)
Except I still wonder if the houses are really repositories of material culture, that we can all possess, or reflections of the material culture we aspire to possess?
From her blog:
I find it constantly surprising how miniaturists in the late 20th and early 21st century seem to have suddenly reverted to creating Victorian country dolls houses. I’m not sure if it is because those pieces are easier to obtain commercially (and here’s where I start asking chicken and egg questions) or if it a “dumbing down” of a hobby (can I be so arrogant as to use the phrase “art form”?) that has been round since the 15th century at least.
If you are interested in some of the famous dolls houses through history you might want to look at Mon Plaisir (1704-1751), the Dutch cabinet houses of the 17th century and, more recently The Thorne Rooms in Chicago and (of course) Queen Mary’s Dolls House at Windsor Castle.
Each of these collections gives us a very clear idea of how people actually lived in the times they were constructed and are a very useful social history tool.
So why oh why aren’t we doing this any more? Are future generations going to have to look to TV to see how people lived in our times? And will that mean they’ll get some completely unrealistic idea (eg: how do the people in Friends actually afford to live in a flat like they have?!)
I don’t disagree with any of the points she has made, either in her blog or in her exhibition; but I do wonder whether the repositories of present/modern life are only slightly less idealistic than those which envisage a far off, unrealistically perfect period of Victoriana.
I think that even modern dollhouses might be aspirational repositories – what we want to possess, where we would like to live – of modern life; rather than reflective repositories – where we actually live, what we can actually afford to own…rather than being a reflection of material culture, they are, perhaps, a reflection of materialistic culture.
Without spending alot of time digging out stats and figures and correlating percentages of ownership of key items against the dates they appeared in dollhouses, this is only speculation.
But in the interest of randomly collating facts found on the internerds and coming to a (possibly flawed conclusion) consider the Shopping Sherpa’s late 50’s dollhouse which was initially dated as being produced in 1947 and features a television. There is an interesting site about TV History which included alot of US figures about tv ownership, and prior to 1955, less than 50% of the USA owned a TV (see source).
Admittedly this is a US specific site, it would be more interesting if the stats were from the same region as the dollhouse – Lundby started in Sweden. And it would be more interesting if there were more than one “key items” which could be correlated against statistics for uptake and ownership….but it was quite a cool thought while it lasted.