Tucson is terrific. It’s hard to think of another American city of less than a million that has so many great attractions–Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, Tohono Chul Park, etc. And now there’s a new one, at least new to me–The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. It opened up a world for me that I didn’t know existed. Now I even know about NAME, the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts.
The Mini-Time Machine will celebrate its 7th birthday in September, 2016. It was founded by Patricia and Walter Arnell. Walter has died since the museum opened, but Patricia remains involved. She has been fascinated by miniatures since she received her 1st doll house as a young girl, but she didn’t start seriously collecting until she and Walter moved to Tucson in 1979. The museum she helped found is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the art of miniatures. It’s hard to imagine a better collection than Patricia’s. When I saw Chateau Meno, Charlotte Schoenbach’s 14-room rococo fantasy, I wrote in my notebook, “The ultimate miniature!”
But when I first walked in, I expected to find room upon room of doll houses. There were, of course, many. But The Mini Time Machine is a lot more than just that. Its appeal transcends age and sex. In it I saw wee military figures, a Super Pumper, a fantasy pastry shop, an entire tiny department store, Star Wars! My favorite mind find, however, was Thai Spirit Houses. When a dwelling is torn down in Thailand, I learned, a miniature version of it is created for displaced spirits. After I became able to pay a bit less attention to the collected works, I realized 2 things. This is a perfect attraction for children, which became far more obvious when I saw a group of kids crawling atop an in-floor Christmas display. Secondly, I could tell the first timers, like me, from repeaters. The latter came in equipped with miniature flashlights.
As I got used to the idea of humanity’s ongoing passion for spending hours and fortunes miniaturizing everything, I began asking myself, “Why?” The answer was supplied by one of the artists in a Mini Time Machine temporary exhibit called “Feel Big Live Small”, which has since closed. Artist Dante Brebner was featured in it and said, “If you live in an environment of constantly increasing information, action, speed, and density (and we all are), you can focus people’s attention in one of two ways: by going bigger–like with an explosion–or by going small.”