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Express Times: Bethlehem exhibit to feature 1 of nation’s largest dollhouse collections

January 1st, 2016 |

January 1, 2016 | In The News

By Nick Falsone for Lehigh Valley Live

Elizabeth Johnston Prime dollhouse

The is one of the pieces that will be on display at the exhibit “Behind the Scenes Dollhouse Tour: The Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse Collection.” It kicks off Jan. 17 at Bethlehem’s Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts. (Courtesy photo | For

A new neighborhood is springing up in Bethlehem next month.

One of the largest dollhouse collections in the nation is going on exhibit at the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts.

“Behind the Scenes Dollhouse Tour: The Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse Collection” runs periodically from Jan. 17 to June 26 at the museum, 427 N. New St.

Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites, the nonprofit agency that operates Kemerer, says in a news release that the exhibit will boast 44 antique buildings, including dollhouses, stores, stables, mansions and verandas.

Accompanying the buildings will be more than 6,000 dolls, furniture, paintings animals, rugs, dishes, chandeliers and other tiny pieces.

The collection belonged to the late Johnston Prime, whose ancestors were among the Moravians who settled in Bethlehem in the mid-18th century. Her grandfather – Archibald Johnston – was a Bethlehem Steel Corp. executive and a former mayor.

Kemerer has owned the collection since 2007. Johnston Prime decided to bequeath it to the museum before her death.

Historic Bethlehem displayed part of the collection in 2008, but at the time it hadn’t been fully unpacked because of its fragility. That changed in 2013 when the museum built a climate-controlled addition.

The addition, called the Collections Resource Center, is primarily for storage and generally isn’t open to the public, but this exhibit will give visitors a chance to get inside the center, which also holds other sensitive artifacts.

The dollhouses and accessories showcase styles that span a century from the 1830s to 1930s. Noted dollhouse designers Moritz Gottschalk and Christian Hacker created some of the dollhouses.

According to the news release, the collection will be on display at 2 p.m. every third Sunday of the month starting on Jan. 17. The subsequent display dates are Feb. 21, March 20, April 17, May 15 and June 19.

A special tour will be held on Feb. 12, where guests will have an exclusive meet-and-greet with Kemerer curator Lindsey Jancay. There are a limited number of $25 admission tickets to that event and those interested must RSVP by contacting Jancay at or at 610-868-6868 ext. 63.

Admission on the other display dates costs $20.

Contact Jancay for more information.

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