At Uppark there is a rare example, intact with original dolls and furniture, of an early Eighteenth century Dolls House. Though smaller than Queen Mary’s famous Dolls House at Windsor, it may be just as significant because of its age and completeness. The National Trust don’t currently think they do justice to this important part of the collection, and are starting a project to understand it more completely, and display and interpret it better.
We met a few days ago and discussed what research needed doing, how it might be better dsiplayed and, in general terms, how it might be interpreted. It struck me that the assembled curators, conservators and other specialists were talking about all sorts of things that might be done digitally, so afterwards I spoke with the manager at Uppark to discuss whether the project might include a digital element from Southampton University. She was very open to the idea.
We think this was less a child’s toy than a training tool for young ladies who needed to learn how to manage households. This sparked an interesting though from my wife when I was talking to her about it. She pointed out that the modern equivalent is the Resource Management Simulation games, that were once seen only as text based training tools for education and industry, but later became popular in commercial games like Sim City, Civilisation, Railroad Tycoon, The Sims or even the Simpsons Tapped Out touch game. We wondered whether there was a digital way of interacting with the Dolls House and moving the fragile Dolls (the Gentry have wax heads the servants are wooden – in one room a wet nurse tends two babies in a crib, one waxen, the other wood) from room to room and task to task, to simulate the micro economy of the sort of household that the Dolls House is meant to represent.