By THOMAS SACCENTE – CENTO WRITER
The Great American Dollhouse Museum stands as one of the most unique attractions that Danville has to offer. There is literally no other place like it in the entire world. It was established by Lori Kagan-Moore in 2006 as a way to express her love for immaculately designed dollhouses and to give other people the opportunity to enjoy them for themselves. Kagan-Moore has poured years into making this dream a reality, collecting over 200 dollhouses from all over the world and renovating an immense 1939 ex-National Guard armory in order to make the museum a truly overwhelming experience.
“I have always loved miniatures. I collected miniatures as a child, but I didn’t have a huge collection like this, Kagan-Moore said. “When my kids got older, I just wanted to do something more and I decided to do something more with miniatures.”
Kagan-Moore took the time to set up a workshop and miniatures store in the museum so that those who are interested in making their own dollhouses can learn the basics and get some hands-on experience before trying it for themselves.
There are three parts of the Dollhouse Museum. The first part is dedicated to recreating American history in the form of dollhouses, starting with the pre-colonial days of Native Americans and ending in the comfortable modernity of the 21st Century, where one can see some suburbanites relaxing at home. It is fascinating enough to see how America has evolved over time, but it is made even better when recreated in the form of exquisitely designed dollhouses, with dozens of specialists coming together to create every individual aspect of the exhibits and assemble them together.
The visitor can then take a walk through Copper Hollow, a fictional town that is comfortably situated at the beginning of the 1900s. It is a complex settlement, consisting of several distinctive districts, neighborhoods, mansions, shopping squares, and factories, as well as hundreds of citizens going about their daily business. After reaching the edge of the town, the museum transforms into a magical forest, complete with foliage, a castle, and a plethora of fairy tale creatures. No matter where you turn, there is always something fantastic to see, including fairies, goblins, and dragons. Even Queen Grimhilde from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves makes an appearance.
In addition to being the only one of its kind, the Great American Dollhouse Museum has a strong connection to Centre. Ever since its beginning, the museum has proven to be a very popular attraction for students looking for something to do on the weekends and is especially popular during Family Weekend.
Senior Danika Isdahl said that, although she did not know what to expect before her first visit, she loved the museum and was enthralled to have something that appeals to her own interest in building dollhouses. “I really wanted to go because I have a dollhouse from my great-grandmother…and I wanted to see if they had things to repair a few broken shingles and chairs. To my great pleasure, they did, and I’ve been designing a new roof and staircase ever since…I have been there many times,” Isdahl said.
The Dollhouse Museum also serves as the place for a very important tradition for Centre. Every year around Halloween, the Centre Players gather at the Dollhouse Museum for an event called “Poe, Poe, Poe,” where they read the works of Edgar Allen Poe for all who dare to listen. Other authors whose works are featured in this event include William Irving and Angela Carter and dozens of other scary stories. It is a fantastical fun event that allows students to really connect with one another and is a great way to capture the spooky essence of Halloween. President of Centre Players and senior Lydia Kincaid prepared for this event for quite some time and was very excited to host it. “It is a good tradition,” Kincaid said. “Walking over to the Dollhouse and getting off campus always lends itself to a sense of community… ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is a perennial favorite.”
The Great American Dollhouse Museum serves not only as a testament to the strength of one woman’s passion for miniatures and dollhouses, but as a distinguishing feature of the city of Danville as well. It is a one-of-a-kind place that allows people of all ages to experience and gain insight into a hobby in a way that is both informative and unforgettable. If you have not been there already, check it out when you have the chance. Even if you are not a dollhouse enthusiast, you will not be disappointed.