They Are Us In Miniature | Joshua's Essay On Antique Dolls

Remember our doll friend Joshua? On Instagram last week he sent me an email about what the Convention experience has meant to him, and what antique dolls mean to him. I loved it so much I want to share it with all of you:

For over a millennia, mankind has preserved its hopes and ideals in miniature. If you want to know what people considered important, look at what they reduced in size and in their own way, enshrined. Dolls and their accoutrement forever will be tiny mannequins of humanity’s ideals and hopes. That's what they really are. They are us-- in miniature.

Door of Hope Dolls via  The Grovian Doll Museum

Door of Hope Dolls via The Grovian Doll Museum

From African Ndebele dolls, to Japanese ningyo, to Chinese Door of Hope, to comedically anatomically correct French court dolls, to German images of common people in folklore costumes, they are the purest and unobstructed by time, windows into history there is. They are windows into who we are and who we have been. They offer us the chance to feel and view history from a first-hand perspective.

We can’t travel back in time, but when you hold a doll from 1780s Edo Japan, or a doll from 1860s France, or a doll from 1750 England, you are seeing and feeling the same thing they did. I don’t know what can bring you closer than that. It’s an experience of wonder at admiring detail. It’s the experience of those who came before us.

The marvel of the artist and the dexterity of a single horse haired brush.

The talent of a seamstress piece paid a pittance for her skill — the “ideal” of beauty from a very period and cultural standpoint.

Do you want to see what society-at-large believed was important and what they wanted to create and achieve for the masses? Look at what they gave their children; they were the adults in training.

This cabinet in The Gold Room contains the "Beautiful Children" exhibit via  The Grovian Doll Museum

This cabinet in The Gold Room contains the "Beautiful Children" exhibit via The Grovian Doll Museum

When I see these early antique dolls, I don’t see a plaything or a figure. I see a time traveler. I see a visitor from the past, blessing us with their presence in our own time. I see a person who can’t die, and a keeper of time and silent secrets. We as historians must learn to speak their language of silence, their language of memory. Slowly we pull away from the layers and begin to understand people who died before we were ever a thought.

Via  The Grovian Doll Museum  Collection

Dolls are the blessed carriers of their unique burden. They are the keepers of their memories and histories of peoples and societies long since past.

They have witnessed the rise and fall of nations, the horrors of war and famine, the destruction of societies and cities, and yet, they remain unchanged, save for the natural course of time. We don’t own dolls, we host them until they outlive us, and they will speak of us and our ideals to the future.


Thank you to our guest blogger Joshua Michael Splawn for your words, enthusiasm and all that you do for the doll community.