Prague dolls’ house exhibition opens door on 300 years of history

Photo: Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague

A major exhibition of dolls’ houses from the Victoria &Albert Museum of Childhood in London is now on display in Prague. Through the stories of 12 dolls’ houses from the past 300 years, visitors to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague can follow the history of the home, everyday lives and changing family relationships.

Photo: Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
The exhibition called ‘Small Stories: At home in a dolls’ house’ was put together for the Victoria &Albert Museum of Childhood in London back in 2014, and then travelled all around the world before making its last stop in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. Helena Koenigsmarková is the museum’s director:

“It is a travelling exhibition which started in London and then it went in two places in Great Britain and to Washington. Before Prague it was on show in Finland, in Turku, and we are its last stop.”

The exhibition encompasses country mansions, the Georgian town house, suburban villas, newly-built council estates and high-rise apartments. The houses are furnished to every detail and brought to life by the characters that live or work there.

Helena Koenigsmarková, photo: Martina Schneibergová
Each house is displayed at a particular time of day and visitors can use buttons alongside the showcases to activate the narration and light up each character as they talk.

Displayed chronologically, the houses also show developments in architecture and design. The oldest item on display dates back to the year 1760. Helena Koenigsmarková again:

“The oldest house is so-called Tate baby house, which was passed through the family from mother to the oldest daughter for six generations and it was bought for the Victoria and Albert collection in the 1920s.

“There is also a very nice house from the 1930s, so-called Whitehouse, which was designed by an artist. It shows modernist country villas emerging in London’s Hampstead at the time.

“And it goes until the 21st century, to the contemporary house ordered by a toy company. It’s called Kaleidoscope house, because it’s made of translucent walls of different colours.”

Photo: Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
Among other items on display, you can admire the Killer House, a gift from surgeon John Egerton Killer to his wife and daughters in the 1830s, designed as a Chinese-style cabinet furnished with gilded wallpapers, four-poster bed and servants.

You can also see a Second World War-era family prepared for an air-raid, with miniature gasmasks, ration books and torches for blackouts in the so-called Hopkinson House, which is based on the houses of London County Council’s 1930s suburb.

The exhibition ‘Small Stories: At home in a dolls’ house’ will be on display at Prague’s Museum of Decorative Arts until June 13.