Unique U.S. Museums: The Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

MUSICAL MINIATURE – A miniature Violin shop is built into a violin and on display at the Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson, Arizona

By Carla Charter

TUCSON, AZ.-In the Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, visitors can take a step back into their childhoods and visited a scaled down miniature world. “The founder named the museum The Mini Time Machine- because a visitor is transported to different lands and times through the stories told by the artifacts in the collection,” said Gentry Spronken, Director of Market and Communications & Associate Director of the Museum.

The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures’ collection, which is visited by an average of 40,000 visitors a year, includes more than 500 dollhouses, room boxes, and vignettes. The term dollhouse refers to a small-scaled house or entire structure. In our collection, these are usually fully-furnished as well. A room box is a term used by miniaturists to refer to a one or two room three-dimensional scene, created in a box of some kind. At the museum, these are mounted into a wall and framed. Within a single room box, there could be hundreds of miniatures. A vignette is an assemblage of items to create a small scene.

The miniatures in the museum’s collection date from their oldest piece, a 1742 Nuremberg kitchen, to contemporary pieces which are made by today’s artists. The collections depict a variety of different eras and places as well.

Some of the miniatures depict real homes and buildings- such as Greene and Greene, based on the Gamble House in Pasadena. Others are fantasy- such as the Forget-Us-Not Fairy Castle. In the 1970s miniaturist Madelyn Cook did careful research when creating the 1700s era Virginian Tidelands mansion, Lagniappe, and over a period of 10 years, made nearly 90% of the furnishings. Most of the miniatures are hand-crafted.

Artistry is an intricate part of each museum scene. “Some of the houses and rooms are designed by miniaturists and furnished with items they have collected from other artisans. Other artists make the items they use. Some artists specialize in one type of miniature artistry. Pete Acquisto, for example, specializes in creating miniature silver using the same processes that silversmiths use making full-scale pieces” added Spronken

In addition to their permanent collection, the museum presents anywhere from 4 to 10 temporary exhibits each year that showcase the wide-variety of art being made in miniature. Upcoming exhibits include Global Miniatures, miniature artifacts from around the world, miniature paintings on clayboard and coins, a hand-crafted circus parade, and an exhibit of mid-century modern miniatures.

More information about the museum’s can be found at https://theminitimemachine.org/