The new Versailles rooms unveiled Saturday at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures are tiny by design. But the crowds coming to the Kansas City museum since its reopening one year ago are just the opposite.
Some 40,000 visitors, more than double the museum’s previous yearly attendance, have visited the museum at 5235 Oak St. since it reopened Aug. 1, 2015, after an $8 million expansion and renovation, said executive director Jamie Berry.
“When we come across works that we don’t have that are of exceptional quality, we are always intent on adding those to our collection,” Berry said Saturday.
She spoke as she stood in front of three display cases showing precise miniature replicas of two 18th century rooms from the Palace of Versailles, alongside one room from the Palace of Fontainebleau. Their walls are replete with golf leaf designs. Tiny crystal chandeliers hang from their ceilings. Miniature candelabras sit atop side tables. Needlepoint rugs lie on parquet floors.
Created on a scale of one inch equaling one foot, the three rooms depict the Louis XV salon at the Palace of Fontainebleau, circa 1765. The middle display is of the private library of Louis XVI at Versailles, circa 1774. The third display houses the private office of Louis XV, circa 1760, and includes an ornate wood desk.
The desk was created by miniaturist artist Denis Hillman. The rooms were created by United Kingdom miniaturists Kevin Mulvany and Susan Rogers. All of it was commissioned by a London tailoring company, Ede & Ravenscroft, which was established in 1689 and is known for creating the ceremonial robes and other regalia for the British royal family. Ede & Ravenscroft had the rooms created to celebrate the firm’s 300th anniversary.
The rooms and furnishings are on permanent loan to the toys and miniatures museum, which acquired them from the Naples Museum of Art, now known as the Baker Museum, in Naples, Fla., in late 2013. The pieces had been kept in storage in Kansas City’s caves, and Saturday marked the first day they were seen in Kansas City by the general public.
Many of the miniature displays, including the rooms from Versailles and Fontainbleau, for now lack explanatory text or identifying signage.
“We want to do some labeling and additional interpretation throughout the gallery,” said Laura S. Taylor, the museum’s curator of interpretation. “One of the biggest challenges I have is that you don’t want the labels to outweigh the objects.”
After all, they’re tiny.
The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, at 5235 Oak St., is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. It is closed on Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission is $5 for ages 5 and up, free for ages 4 and under.