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Published: December 15, 2015
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National Building Museum Only U.S. Venue for Small Stories

May 21, 2016-January 22, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—This summer, the National Building Museum will explore the history of British domestic life from the unexpected perspective of the U.K.’s most beloved dollhouses. Featuring 12 dollhouses from the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in London, Small Stories: At Home in a Dollhouse spans 300 years and provides a miniature-sized, up-close view of developments in architecture and design from lavish country mansions to an urban high-rise. The National Building Museum is the only U.S. venue for the exhibition, which will be on view from May 21, 2016 through January 22, 2017.

The exhibition will take visitors on a journey through the history of the home, everyday lives, and changing family relationships. The imagined stories of each house will be brought to life by the characters who live or work there—the owners, tenants, children, and servants—as day-to-day life is illuminated through tales of marriages and parties; politics and crime. Each house is displayed to reflect a particular moment in history and visitors can use buttons alongside the showcases to activate the narration and light up the characters as they talk.

Displayed chronologically, Small Stories will encompass a country mansion, a lodging house, a suburban villa, a wartime council estate, and high-rise apartments. Highlights include:

The Tate Baby House, dating from 1760, was owned by the same family for 170 years, passed down from mother to eldest daughter. It includes original wallpapers and hand-painted paneling. In the lying-in room all set up for a home childbirth, Joanna, the pregnant doll, is ready with clean linens and a beautiful gold and red cradle for the newcomer.

At Henriques House, it is an early morning in October of 1828, and a crime has just taken place. Phineas Henriques has been robbed. With the candlesticks missing, broken railings, and an open window, the evidence points to an inside job. But the servant claims his innocence…

Whiteladies House is in the style of a Modernist country villa, and was designed by artist Moray Thomas in the 1930s. Here, a house party is in full swing, and the house features chrome furniture, a cocktail bar, and artworks by British Futurist Claude Flight as well as a swimming pool and garage.

The Hopkinson House was built in the style of London County Council’s 1930s suburb, the St. Helier Estate. The interior shows a World War II-era family in intricate detail, poised for an air-raid, with miniature gasmasks, ration books and torches for the blackouts. The children are upstairs packing, preparing to be evacuated from the war-torn city.

Jenny’s Home is a 1960s high-rise, telling the story of young people in the modern city. Here lives a young couple with a new baby, a Jamaican immigrant, and Jenny, a single girl listening to a transistor radio and getting ready to go out for some late-night dancing in her “groovy” new red dress.

“These treasured diminutive houses offer us a fascinating and unusual window to peek through to learn about the history of British architecture and design,” says Chase W. Rynd, executive director of the National Building Museum. “But more importantly, the exhibition, with the meticulous detail of each dollhouse, contributes in a significant way to the larger narrative of how our homes shape the way we live.”

A fully illustrated book, Dolls’ Houses from the V&A Museum of Childhood, accompanies the exhibition. The author is Halina Pasierbska, former Curator of Dolls’ Houses and Toys at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

For more information about the exhibition, press images, and related programs, contact Emma Filar, 202.272.2448, ext. 3458 and efilar@nbm.org.

The V&A Museum of Childhood aims to encourage everyone to explore the themes of childhood past and present and develop an appreciation of creative design through its inspirational collections and programmes. The Museum is part of the V&A, housing the national childhood collection. The galleries are designed to show the collections in a way which is accessible to adults and children of all ages. V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA UK www.vam.ac.uk/moc

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, online content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448 or visit www.nbm.org. Connect with us on Twitter: @BuildingMuseum and Facebook.

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