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Kentucky Arts and Culture

A museum of miniatures in Maysville offers the tiniest surprises, from a historic section to a kids' corner

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Cheri Lawson
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Thomas Jefferson's office is part of the KSB Miniatures Collection in Maysville.

From a replica of Princess Diana’s ancestral home in London to a version of the theater where Rosemary Clooney watched the opening of her first film, a museum in Maysville houses some of the teeniest tiniest displays that look very real—because they are, in miniature.

A fascination with the world of miniatures started for Kathleen Savage Browning, known as Kaye, about 45 years ago. She was reading a Tasha Tudor book called A is for Annabelle to her little girls who were three and four years old.

”And on the “Q” page there was a four-poster spool bed and a pink and white nine square quilt that was exactly like what I had slept in when I was a little girl. That was the moment that it hit me that I had to have that in miniature,” said Browning.

The 76-year-old’s miniature collection is housed at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in Maysville. Browning said there are 5500 square feet of miniatures. Thousands of individual art pieces created by nearly 2000 artisans from around the world are included in the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection.

“The scale in miniatures, the general scale is 1/12th scale, which is one inch equals one foot. In the miniatures world, where I come from, everything has to be made out of the real material and it has to be so perfect in detail that you could blow it up and use it in your own home,” explained Browning.

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Cheri Lawson
Kaye Browning points to what she calls a true replica of a small section of Catherine the Great's palace in the KSB Miniatures Collection.

Browning said miniatures date back to ancient Egypt. At the entrance of her collection is a tutorial intended to educate people about the fine art of miniatures.

“These are not dollhouses. These are actual pieces that are working tools. All the silver has to be polished. Every light bulb has to be changed if it goes out. There are hidden staircases. There are staircases that actually lead to somewhere. You get the depth of being in a real home. Which is why you can really shrink yourself and move in,” said Browning.

The KSB collection includes everything from a replica of the ancestral home of Princess Diana to a one-of-a-kind working Naderman Harp and a Swiss army knife that is functional.

“The scissors work, it has the toothpick that comes out of the handle. Most of what I have is 1/12th scale but I do have one item which is a gentlemens’ working toolbox from the 1800s, all of the tools work,” said Browning.

Many of the 1/12th scale items depict working replicas of musical instruments, tools, and re-creations of historical buildings.

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Cheri Lawson
This replica of the Cox building is covered in real miniature bricks.

Among the miniatures is a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s law office. Tandy Floyd, the museum’s education curator, said the artisans did 22 hundred hours of research before they even began on the law office.

Spencer House, Princess Diana’s ancestral home in London, is really the center piece of the collection said, Kaye Browning. It includes tiny items like real China place settings, chandeliers, and paintings.

“And all of the ones that you see in the dining room are actually the paintings that you see in Spencer House that are on loan from the Queen,” said Browning.

The miniaturist says there’s a surprise around every corner from the historic section to the children’s section.

Nancy and Phil Williams from Penn Yan, New York toured the museum. They were delighted to meet Kaye Browning and get to ask a few questions.

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Cheri Lawson
Phil and Nancy Williams are from Pen Yan, New York. They are looking into the replica of Maysville's Cox building.

“I’m in the engineering field so it kind of intrigues me that somebody can put this into a workshop and do the detail and precision to make everything the way it is. The kid’s miniature train is going around in circles inside the room and lights are on and on and on,” said Phil.

Nancy was intrigued by the replica of Maysville’s Cox building where the soda fountain and detailed pharmacy can be seen down to a miniature ashtray and cigarette.

“Everything is just so tiny. I can’t imagine people working with the material and tools to do what they do,” said Nancy.

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Cheri Lawson
A glimpse of the miniature soda fountain in the replica of Maysville's Cox building in the KSB Miniatures Collection.

In 1953 Maysville’s own Rosemary Clooney attended the premiere of her first film at the Russell Theater. Kaye Browning points to a replica of the Russell and recalled the story of Clooney seeing the film.

“She had her premiere of The Stars Are Singing in the theater. And Blanche Chambers was her best friend, and she was Black and she said she wouldn’t do it unless they would allow Blanche to sit with her downstairs because you know, at the time, the Blacks had their own entrance, and they would sit up in the balcony. She stuck to her guns.”

Browning said from now until January second almost everything in the collection will have a touch of Christmas in it, which she said, is like a fantasyland.

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