Dream Homes – Dollhouses at the National Museum


This small exhibit was taking place at the National Museum and I found myself more interested in this than the permanent ones.  Curiosity killed the cat.

The oldest known dollhouses, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, were neither utility objects nor toys, but were instead meant to be viewed and admired in curiosity cabinets.  Curiosity cabinets depicted the universe with displays of oddities and strange objects, and a small dollhouse represented command of the miniature world.

Imitating reality, the items in dollhouses were miniature replicas of real objects.  Dollhouses are therefore valuable sources of cultural history, as the objects in them may sometimes be the only surviving examples of the interior decoration of past eras.  Until the second half of the 19th century, however, dollhouses remained a luxury item available only to wealthy families and their children.

Play is children’s work
After the Second World War the architect Elsi Borg designed a miniature home called “Leikkilä” for the Kotilliesi women’s magazine.  With this publication, the practice gained a supposedly educational approach for the children to learn about the world of adults.  For example, girls, and girls only, could learn about the responsibility for housework and chores, even though it was the “boys”, fathers or grandfathers, whose task was to construct the dollhouses.

The exhibition featured thirteen dollhouses from the 19th and 20th centuries.  There is a claimed comeback in designing and building the dollhouses in Finland. So by the end, the exhibition showed some modern dollhouses designed and made by Diakonia College’s preparatory programme for vocational training and elderly people.

“My dream home is an urban apartment where I would live with my fiancé.  Music is important to me.  My dream home also reflects my freedom form the church.” Rattmaster, a 17 year-old says of her mini living-room design (shown at bottom).

I found this exhibition quite kitsch and somewhat egotistic since, the children who should be the real “home dreamers” where just left to “see and learn” from them – I am saying this from an outsiders point of view and don’t mean to upset the culture.  You do have to admire the true work of careful craft they involved though, and a certain beauty and charm.  My favourite part were the young students’ dream home designs, they somewhat seemed more down to earth and real.

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