Oberlin Heritage Center Blog


Posts Tagged ‘History’

A Doll’s House

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

by Eli Goldberg (Oberlin College Class of 2012) 

Over the last month I’ve been working with Claire and Daniella to restore the Heritage Center’s 1930s doll house.  As an archaeology major, I’m used to working with old things – but this doll house is about 2,000 years out of my league!  Nevertheless, it’s been an amazing month. 
I read through dozens of old issues of the Ladies’ Home Journal, and drew up furniture plans for all the rooms in the dollhouse: living room with a grand piano, dining room, grown-up bedroom, and a twee little nursery that has its own toybox with tiny dolls. I vacuumed the dust out of miniature armchairs. I pored through countless wallpaper catalogs and daydreamed about floor coverings. (Hardwood floors? Handmade rugs? Yes we can!) 

Testing out a furnishings plan in the living room.

We went on two delightful field trips – one to a local art conservation facility (picture displaced sculptures lined up in the snow outside an Ohio barn, awaiting treatment); the other to meet with Steve McQuillin, an Oberlin alum who is a historic preservation consultant (working out of a breathtaking brick farmhouse that he restored himself). 

But halfway through the month – just when I thought I knew what I was doing – came the coolest surprise. 

My mission: take apart the dollhouse. This was a daunting assignment, as I’m excellent at deconstructing things, but not so great at putting them back together. Nevertheless, it will make it much, much easier to put in wallpaper and flooring. I prowled around the house with a camera, snapping photos of every nut, bolt, and screw. Then, tools in hand, I set about dismantling the beast, methodically laying out each piece on a card table. 

I unscrewed the fireplaces, pulled off the chimneys. Then I delicately lifted the roof, and very nearly died. 

Still carrying the roof, I wandered in a daze into the next room, where I found my supervisor. “Hey, uh, Prue? We’ve got an attic full of furniture.” 

“…oh, my goodness. You have got to be kidding me.” 

The sight that awaited us when we opened up the attic.

Oh, yes, there was furniture – some (sadly mildewy) couches, a complete bathroom set, a cast-iron kitchen range, a painted metal parlor set with manufacturer’s stamps. But there was so much more: a working mechanical music box. A toy cash register with coupons and newspaper scraps in the drawer. A pencil case with “March 1925” written on the back. An ancient Mickey Mouse figurine. A tiny tea set. It’s unbelievable that all of this was sitting under our noses the entire time – probably the person who donated the dollhouse didn’t even know it was there. 

I stayed well after my shift was over, exploring our new finds. After working with this house for two weeks, I thought I knew everything about it. But just pull off the roof, and suddenly the shape of my project has completely changed…

Working as a Preservation Intern

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

By Rachel Luczkowski (Oberlin College class of 2012)

Rachel interning at the Oberlin Heritage Center

Choosing a winter term project is always difficult. There is usually a good deal of flexibility with what you choose and practically anything can be justified and signed off on. For example, I have a friend who has been making balloon animals for the entire month of January. I decided to go the more conventional route and find an internship, preferably something in the museum world. Luckily, I already knew a museum that would serve my interests well. Having worked with the Oberlin Heritage Center through the Bonner Scholars Program I was easily able to set up an internship and have been volunteering with them regularly.

Although my role at first was not clearly defined, we finally settled on the title of Preservation Intern as my responsibility to the Oberlin Heritage Center. As a Preservation Intern, one is able to get their hands and minds into everything involved with the museum’s daily workings. The past month I have become an expert encapsulator of documents, an awesome archival box builder, familiarized myself with the collections management policies of the group, learned a great deal about historical tax credits and LEED certification, and carefully cleaned pieces from a dollhouse from the 1930’s.  What I learned was not restricted to just the Monroe House either. With the Heritage Center I visited the Mckay Lodge Conservation Laboratory and Steve McQuillin’s, a building preservation consultant, historic home. I was even fortunate enough to be sent on behalf of the Heritage Center to a symposium about Green Historic Preservation in Indianapolis and discussed with preservationists from all over the Midwest about how to address this new movement in preservation. All in all the Heritage Center provided me with an amazing well rounded experience and I hope that with my new skills I can continue to help them as long as I am at Oberlin, as well as apply myself in the museum world later.