Paper Models

Gift of David Kemnitzer

Donated in 2013 through 2016

The David Kemnitzer paper model collection includes over 4,700 models and catalogues representing buildings and cultures from all 50 US states and 57 countries, as well as many imaginary buildings such as farms, forts, villages, skyscrapers, and castles. Kemnitzer, a local architect and life-long collector, describes his interest in paper models as dating from the 1940s, when his aunt sent home the toys from her post as an Army nurse in Germany. One of his mother’s friends noticed his paper model construction and suggested he should be an architect. With his career thus determined, Kemnitzer went on to collect paper models, perhaps in honor of his younger self and his early, formative interest in international paper toys.

Paper models are not neutral depictions of international architecture and culture. They represent the time and place in which they are made, as well as the motivations of the designer, whether educational or nostalgic; ill-informed or beautiful. As The New York Times commented upon the issue of a paper model in 1984, the cut-outs are more than “origami”—they are a chance “to forge a table-top past.” Kemnitzer’s collection includes a wide variety of structures, exploring how states and countries are represented through these paper souvenirs. Architectural representation sometimes showcases iconic grandeur—the Dome of the Rock, the Roman Baths, a World Cup soccer stadium in South Korea—and sometimes devolves into a patronizing primitivism, in which cultures disappear into myth.

The Paper Models collection is in storage and not on view. Please check current exhibitions for a list of what is publicly accessible.