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A Marvelous Day at the Museum

A day spent celebrating silent film star Colleen Moore and her Fairy Castle

 

By Bryce Hope Ciraldo     

 

Photos by The Chicago Museum of Science & Industry, Sharon Manislovich & Bryce Hope Ciraldo

 

      On January 27th, 2024, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry held the Moore’s Marvelous Miniatures Event. Thanks to Chicago author Kathleen Rooney's new novel, From Dust to Stardust, silent movie star Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle is once again center stage. Rooney’s book was inspired by Colleen Moore’s star-studded life and the creation of her wonderous Fairy Castle.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      The event featured a conversation with author Kathleen Rooney and Alice Hargrave, Colleen Moore’s granddaughter. There was also an exceptionally well attended book signing with Kathleen Rooney, a miniature marketplace held in the museum rotunda and a screening of Colleen Moore’s silent film “Flaming Youth” in the Yesterday’s Main Street Nickelodeon. The Chicago Public Library brought “Destination Storytime” to the event and even had a craft table where children could make miniature books.

 

 

      I’ve been selling handmade dollhouse miniatures and dollhouse supplies online through my Rogue Bea Studio shop since 2016. Last year I had booths at a few in person miniature shows and now I’m hooked. When I first heard about the mini marketplace being held at the museum event, the idea of selling miniatures at the museum and having the opportunity to see the Fairy Castle in person was just too difficult to resist. Once I applied and was accepted as a vendor, I realized that participating in the event wouldn’t be without a few challenges.

 

    Since the event was being held in a museum, booth setup time would be considerably shorter than that of a typical miniature show. I thoroughly rehearsed my booth setup beforehand. In what amounted to a game of luggage Tetris, I packed all my handmade miniatures and mini supplies into one suitcase for the short flight from Detroit to Chicago. My friend and fellow miniaturist Sharon Manislovich came along with me to help with display set up, tear down and everything in between. With the time constraints, it was definitely a two-person job.

 

 

 

 

      I was so excited/nervous about the event, that it was difficult to sleep the night before. When our Lyft driver dropped Sharon and I off in front of the building the morning of the event, the museum was shrouded in a lovely mist of fog, casting it in an otherworldly haze. It felt like an auspicious start to a day meant for celebrating the magical Fairy Castle and tiny creations fit for the fair folk themselves.

 

      After making our way up to the beautiful rotunda, the mad dash of setup and finally putting the finishing touches on the booth, I took a seat at our table and stole a moment to admire our surroundings. The Transportation Gallery view from our booth included a shiny black turn of the century steam Locomotive and several vintage planes and a Boeing 727 suspended from the high ceilings. It felt as though I was selling my miniature wares in a fantastic dreamscape.  

 

 

 

      All in all, ten different miniature vendors from Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Indiana had booths at the event. The rotunda Mini Market was a hive of activity throughout the day and traffic at the booths was nearly non-stop. It was exciting to experience so many people in one place interested in miniatures. I even recognized the familiar faces of several people I’d met at past miniature shows.

     One of my favorite parts of the day was chatting with the children who stopped by the booth. These budding miniaturists enjoyed telling us all about their projects and favorite types of minis. At one point, I couldn’t help but smile when I overheard a grandmother tell her young granddaughter that she had already blown her budget for miniatures and had no more money to spend. To this the granddaughter sweetly replied, “That’s okay, just make me a new budget.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      As the day progressed, Sharon and I managed to find quick moments to sneak away and go downstairs to visit the fabulous Fairy Castle. It’s incredible in photos, but in person the castle is breathtaking.

     A lifelong miniature enthusiast, Colleen Moore began building her awe-inspiring Fairy Castle in 1928. By 1935 the Fairy Castle was completed and over 100 artisans had worked to bring the Fairy Castle to life. The Castle contains over 1,500 miniatures and can be broken down into 200 individual pieces. Each room is a modular unit that can be packed away into the drawers of specially designed shipping crates. At the time, the 8'7" x 8'2" x 7'7" foot palace cost nearly $500,000 to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      In 1935, during the great depression, Moore organized a national tour of the Fairy Castle with the intent to raise money for children’s charities. The tour stopped mostly at toy stores in major US cities. Between 1935 – 1939, the tour raised $650,000 for children’s charities. In 1949, the Museum of Science and Industry director Major Lenox Lohr convinced Moore to donate the Fairy Castle to the museum. Long after its donation, Colleen Moore continued to send additional miniature items for the exhibit.

 

      Now displayed behind glass in a carefully controlled environment, millions of guests have been able to enjoy visiting the iconic Fairy Castle and imaging themselves temporarily transported to the realm of the fairies.

 

      It truly was a marvelous day at the museum. The only disappointing part of the day was that we didn’t have more time to spend in the museum itself. Between the “Great Train Story” (The interactive model railroad with more than 30 trains on the tracks.) and Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, the museum is a paradise for miniature enthusiasts. The next time you find yourself in Chicago, don’t forget to add the Museum of Science and Industry to your list of sites to see.  

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Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle
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Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle
Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle
The Great Train Story
Yesterday's Main Street
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