These rooms were conceived, designed and in large part created by Narcissa Niblack Thorne. An Indiana native, Thorne began to collect miniature furniture and household accessories during her travels to England and the Far East shortly after the turn of the 20th century.
Beginning in 1930, Thorne devised the ingenious scheme of having these interiors made to hold her growing collection of miniature objects. Many of the rooms are exact replicas of existing houses in the United States and Europe. The remaining rooms faithfully depict the architecture and interior design of their periods and countries. Made at a scale of 1:12 (one inch in the room equals one foot in real life), some of the rooms even contain period-style rugs Mrs. Thorne had woven specifically for each space.
Mrs. Thorne and the craftsmen she worked with completed nearly 100 rooms. Her hope was that perfectly proportioned rooms in miniature could substitute for costly and space-consuming full-scale period rooms that museums across the country were beginning to acquire. Phoenix Art Museum owns 20 Thorne Miniature Rooms and the rest are in the Art Institute of Chicago (68), the Knoxville Museum of Art (9), The Indianapolis Childrens Museum (1), and the Kaye Miniature Museum in Los Angeles (1).