From the Star-Spangled Banner flag to Dorothy's Ruby Slippers, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History is home to some fascinating objects. In fact, one of the most fascinating of these, and one of the most popular, is itself a home. On the museum's third floor sits a five-story dollhouse donated to the museum by Faith Bradford, a Washington D.C. librarian, who spent more than a half-century accumulating and constructing the 1,354 miniatures that fill its 23 intricately detailed rooms. When Bradford donated them to the museum in 1951, she wrote a lengthy manuscript describing the lives of its residents: Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doll and their ten children, two visiting grandparents, twenty pets, and household staff. Bradford cataloged the Dolls' tastes, habits, and preferences in neatly typed household inventories, which she then bound, along with photographs and fabric samples, in a scrapbook. She even sent museum curators holiday cards written by the Dolls. In America's Doll House, Smithsonian Institution curator William L. Bird, Jr. weaves this visual material and back-story into the rich tapestry of Faith Bradford's miniature world. Featuring vibrant photography that brings every narrative detail to life, America's Doll House is both an incisive portrait of a sentimental pastime and a celebration of Bradford's remarkable and painstaking accomplishment.
William L. Bird, Jr. is a historian and curator at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. He is the author of Holidays on Display and Paint By Number, both from Princeton Architectural Press.
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"This book is a real treat for lovers of doll houses and miniatures, as well as anyone with an interest in interior design and sociology of the first half of the twentieth century."
"Its all therethe Victorian bric-a-brac, the cluttered desk, the groaning library shelves, heavy mahogany furnishings, wallpapers and rugs, with the lightly-worn detail of daily life right down to the family portraits tacked on the walls."
"An excellent holiday gift for miniaturists and that child who is in us all."
"A wonderful and vivid narrative. This book is an engaging look at a true labor of love."
"I had just about given up with the idea of reviewing books here until Americas Doll House: The Miniature World of Faith Bradford arrived from Princeton Architectural Press. This is a fascinating little book...."
Joshy and Belle blog:
"This book works on many levels, not only does it show readers a history of the museum, and an insight into Faith Bradford's creative dream, but it also showcases through text and photographs (deliciously tactile in the scrapbook section) an inspiring room by room account into a magical vintage dollhouse."
"I was so excited when we got Americas Doll House in at the store. It tells the story (and has great pictures) of a twenty-three room doll house that is now in the Smithsonian! I have to say, I dont think my doll housekeeping skills would have ever merited that."
(rating 5 out of 5):
I Started to read this book at three in the morning with a gurgling wide eyed baby on my lap, intending to read just a few pages until Sammy gave in to sleep I began. As the pages turned in my hands and my eyes grew heavy I realised I had been reading for well over an hour lost in the history of Faith Bradford and her miniature collection.At 69 years old Faith Bradford without a girl in her family to leave her collection to decided to donate it instead to the museum she often visited as a girl. The narrative winds in and out of miniature fantasy, museum politics, and both the museums and Bradfords personal history, bringing together photographs and typed manuscripts of the doll house occupants and their scrapbook of soft furnishings. Peppered with nostalgic musings and descriptions about Bradford such as 'her favourite colours were lavender and grey...' also ' ... Cutting a grandmotherly figure on the floor of the museum, she wore her hair pulled up under a hat fixed with a pin!'I enjoyed the notions of Faith as a girl her interests, parades, soda fountains and ice cream parlors and like so many miniaturists the eternal hunt for miniatures, seeing an object as something to be used and cherished within a scene, a thimble could be a waste paper basket, Bradford explained 'Everything looks like something else to me.'I think Bradford must have been an eccentric soul, never married she described her and her sister as 'not very attractive', during the summer she stayed at the back of her sister and brother-in-laws property in a converted chicken coop! these little details stack up throughout this little book adding charm and insight and for me a little bit of dottiness that I found endearing.The second half of the book is choc filled with coloured photographs of each room, each tiny detail, from the lamp with its missing globe in the attic to the faithful family dog sat by the fire in the library. Concluding with Faiths typed scrapbook filled with tiny fabric remnants of used textiles.In summary this book works on many levels, not only does it show readers a history of the museum, and an insight into Faith Bradfords creative dream, but it also showcases through text and photographs (deliciously tactile in the scrapbook section) an inspiring room by room account into a magical vintage dollhouse. Letting the reader decided to delve into the informative text or forgo the descriptive museum history and just sit wondering at the miniature marvels in each glossy image.
- Felicity from England (12/10/2010)