Miniatures delight people for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they trigger a sense of nostalgia for one‟s childhood. Or, maybe the craftsmanship and artistry of the builder becomes the most intriguing aspect. But for many visitors at our museum, the miniatures within the collection act together as a global express ticket, providing a veritable world tour on the small scale. This capacity to capture the very large within a small dimension becomes a precious learning tool, allowing the viewer to study any number of cultural and historical aspects from architecture, to fashion to food. Those interested in human history can revel in the miniature‟s ability to create a time capsule; a well-made roombox or dollhouse can convey not only period furniture and accessories, but also the social hierarchy and customs of a group of people.
Pam Throop‟s Load of Mischief Pub (1987-88), located in our Exploring the World Gallery, is exactly such a piece: a delicious slice of history frozen in time. The pub‟s structure is based upon the framework of an inn named Sign of the Angel¨, a 15th century building which has gone through a few changes of operation over the centuries although never has it actually been a pub. This lovely inn can be found in the picturesque village of Lacock, located in the Cotswold region of England and, like a few of the other buildings there, it reflects the Tudor style of architecture. Admiring this miniature pub quickly becomes a lesson in history: easily recognized by its black and white, half-timbered look, the Tudor style is a direct result of the medieval misuse of timber. According to Doreen Yarwood, author of English Houses, “Timber was becoming more costly as a result of centuries of felling without replanting. A number of houses were built in a combination,” using wood, stone and brick.1 Other significant Tudor changes included a decline in defensive needs: “The moat, defensive gatehouse, battlements and machicolations disappeared.”2 Windows also became more plentiful and larger in size, reflecting the same societal shift. Very little of the Angel‟s structure has changed over the last 532 years, although a once-grand horse passage leading from the street to the interior courtyard was eventually boarded-up to provide more interior space – once the threat of horse thievery was no longer a significant traveler concern. Fortunately for all of us, Sign of the Angel, along with nearly the entire village of Lacock, was protected by a National Trust in 1944. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>