Our Museum’s History Gallery is filled with artifacts that seem to breathe; their wooden frames and faded paper skins are saturated with untold memories of touch, sounds, and smells. These small houses and miniature rooms are repositories of the past, acting as three-dimensional studies of cultural trends and human ingenuity. Many of the pieces have rich and colorful backstories. For others, their provenance remains largely silent, slowly revealing their chronicles to historians through patient victories. The Daneway House (ca.1775) has divulged some of the most curious stories, thanks largely to the investigative work of Museum conservationist, Casey Rice.
The Daneway House is a George III style Baby House built in England, circa 1775. It was acquired by Museum Founder Pat Arnell in 1988, and restored by Casey Rice that same year. The term "Baby House" refers to a common practice of the wealthy of 17th and 18th century Europe to collect miniatures and display them as a novel curiosity; therefore, Baby Houses resemble stylized cabinets rather than small houses, and are intended to merely show off a collection of miniature pieces rather than be an object of play. At well over 200 years old (older than the United States, itself), the Daneway House has unsurprisingly had multiple owners. Consequently, the piece was altered and in some cases damaged due to the careless actions of these alleged caretakers. For example, the original façade of the Daneway House was lost at some time during its long history. Rice designed a replacement façade based on historical research into the period architecture, which replicates the front wall of the home. This façade would have been attached with hinges to both sides of the cabinet front, opening as two doors that join in the center. For our exhibit purposes the museum keeps the façade on display in a glass cabinet on the wall to the right of the piece. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>