Arts / Community

Life in miniature comes to the Library

We have all walked through the doors to the library, whether it has been to study, do homework, or catch up on some pleasure reading. How many of us have noticed the big dollhouse in the “Recent Acquisitions” area, or stopped to take a look at all the details? Donated by Josh Henry and Christine O’Day, the son and daughter-in-law of the late Dorothy V. (Johnson) Henry ’48, this dollhouse is an exquisitely crafted piece of artwork for the Dana Hall community to enjoy.

DH2015-002 English Minature House AlbumModeled after the “Swan House” built around 1711 in Chichester, England, the dollhouse is one of the masterpieces of Dan McNeil, who worked for the Illinois-based Lawbre Company. He was known as a peaceful-natured “magician” of miniature houses and was passionate in his work, spending most of his lifetime studying 18th-century American architecture. He built the exterior of the dollhouse in 1988.

The interior of the house, modeled after Ms. Henry’s own home, can be credited to multiple custom designers. Each room was made by a different person, which is what makes this model unique. “Mrs. Henry was very interested in miniatures; every single detail is completely customized and handcrafted,” says Library archivist Ms. Pam Kaplan. “Even the paintings were individually painted.” Each item in each room can be appreciated as independent pieces of artwork.

The dollhouse was brought to and assembled in the library on May 2 last year, with every small piece polished and placed in its assigned spot. “It is really elaborate,” says Regina Lee ’18. “It seems very real.”

The dollhouse was given to Dana in hopes that the sight of it could spark wonder and curiosity. “It’s so cool, and everything is so tiny,” says Jocie Sullivan ’16. “It must have taken a long time to put them together.”Room #2

Helen Jiang ’17 agrees. “It is amazing! It would be the perfect dream house for any girl to have.”

“It’s really special to see the look of mesmerization on each person’s face as they admire this dollhouse,” librarian Ms. Stephanie Donohue smiles. “We’ve seen not only students, but the faculty, faculty’s children, and ground-guys amazed by this creation.”

The librarians believe that the house could be used for class projects, because it serves as an excellent resource for students in architecture, drawing and painting, and English classes.

room #3The house symbolizes Dana Hall’s past in the way a time capsule does, because it is donated in memory of a deceased alumna, whose passion for miniature architecture is expressed through this gift. The stories of the alumna exist in the form of this dollhouse, enriching the school’s history. This house is not only an emblem of the past; it is also relevant to the present and future. While it is a glimpse into the past life of a fellow Dana alumna, it is also valued as a treasure in our community today. And as for the future, new students and visitors of Dana Hall will come by the house and look at it, marvelling at its intricate designs as we do now. The house will become one of the unique treasures of Dana Hall that people will remember when they talk about the school.

Photos: The dollhouse and three of its interior rooms. Courtesy of the Dorothy (Johnson) Henry 1948 collection in the Nina Heald Webber ’49 Archives in the Helen Temple Cooke Library.

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