IF YOU LIKE TO GAZE at tiny things -- for long moments, if no one's watching -- then the National Geographic's "Enchanting World of Dollhouses and Miniatures" may be one of your favorite things.
Think small. These 24 rooms and houses are transporting. There's a Williamsburg kitchen, complete to the ashes on the floor by the fireplace. A "Calorie Gallery" -- a pastry shop in endless miniature that has to be seen to be believed, with everything from petit fours to wedding cake. A doll shop and a junk shop, equally comprehensive.
You can imagine yourself inside a glowing room laid out with all the lights, presents and glory of the night before Christmas. Or in a 1949 living room, with early television. Or an impeccable Georgian dining room that gives you an era in a glance with its "antique" crystal and china and chairs covered in fine needlepoint. For an authentic touch, the soft light shining through the window makes a pattern on the hardwood floor.
Bill Robertson of Wheaton made the Georgian reproductions, which are his specialty. His exquisite handwork looks like the real thing even under magnification. Consisting of 77 pieces, his 1790 Hepplewhite mousetrap is only as big as his thumbnail, and the trap works -- or would, if Robertson could find a small enough mouse.
There are some real antiques on display here: several houses from the extensive collection of Flora Gill Jacobs of the Washington Dolls' House and Toy Museum.
You want to stare and find surprises like the tiny shavings on the floor in the compleat tinsmith's shop. Although most of the rooms in the show have been designed by collectors (many of them local), this one was done by a tinsmith, showcasing his tiny wares.
But the true test of greatness in little things is the sense that someone has just left the room. Take the Georgetown townhouse. Not as historically accurate as some others maybe, but a fun potpourri.
Starting at the street side of this four-story house, pass the bike parked in front, step over the newspaper and the mail tossed on the front stoop, and go inside. Entering the comfortable parlor, you find yourself wondering where the two couples are who left their champagne bubbling on the coffee table.
That's when you know you're hooked. THE ENCHANTING WORLD OF DOLLHOUSES AND MINIATURES -- In Explorers Hall at the National Geographic through February 17.