old miniature model of airplane interior with human figures

The Remarkable History of the Miniature

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Miniatures have fascinated and educated for thousands of years. They are focal points for galleries, museums, private collections, and tradeshow floor rooms. Why do miniatures entrance us, what can they teach us, and what value do they provide?

The earliest known miniatures were created over five thousand years ago to be placed in Egyptian tombs. The ancient Egyptians believed these miniatures would be brought to life to join the deceased in the afterlife. They are among the most abundant artifacts of ancient Egypt.1

The ancients’ desire to immortalize these objects gives us a glimpse of what they really cared about. Dioramas often include valued family members, servants, and depictions of common affairs.

To trace the origin of our modern interest in miniatures, we must look at the emergence of baby houses in the 16th century. Unlike modern dollhouses made as toys for children, baby houses were usually commissioned by the upper class.

A baby house with its dolls and intricate furnishings had a monetary value equivalent to a full-sized house of the same period.2 In addition to being objects of intrigue and symbols of status, baby houses were used to teach housekeepers and servants the duties associated with running a household.3

With the transition of baby houses into modern dollhouses, the accessibility and popularity of miniatures increased. In the 20th century, miniatures began to be noticed for their value in popular culture and advertising.

In the late 1950s, United Airlines commissioned Pacific Miniatures to create a cutaway model of their DC-8 aircraft, which had just gone into service. United Airlines featured the model in a short film which you can view here. With this film, United Airlines hoped to demystify and normalize the concept of commercial flight.4

To learn more about the Douglas DC-8 cutaway visit the SFO Museum website.

By recontextualizing objects, miniatures provoke contemplation. In her Miniature Manifesto, Louise Krasniewicz explains that interacting with miniatures is not necessarily a means of escape from the real world, as some might suggest, “but a way to engage, confront, question, critique, or consider it.”5

Pacmin Studios continues to create dynamic cutaway models. These models showcase beautiful interior design, avionics, and x-rays of complex machinery.

Learn more about Pacmin Studios’ projects by visiting pacmin.com. You can pick up a premium model from the Pacmin Studios Model Shop. To see how Pacmin Studios can promote your company’s brand, visit our Aviation Marketing page.

References

  1. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/119
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20060816025836/http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/aria/aria_assets
  3. https://www.lyonandturnbull.com/news/article/the-evans-baby-house
  4. https://www.sfomuseum.org/about/blog/illusion-flight-united-air-lines-douglas-dc-8-cutaway-model-interior
  5. https://thewonderofminiatures.home.blog/2016/07/27/maifestopt3why