"They are remembrances of places, souvenirs of where you've been, souvenirs of things you've seen," says Charlotte Kroll of the museum. "In this case, you can hold them in the palm of your hand."
The earliest replicas were of famed monuments in Europe. In the United States, some of the first metallic miniatures were made for the 1876 Centennial celebrations. The nation's capitol became popular in pint-size.
"I'm very fond of the small miniature of the U.S. Capitol building with the little fez on the top that was produced for the U.S. Shriners' Convention in 1923," says Linnea Hamer, the curator of the show.
The exhibit boasts 43 examples of the grande dame of small souvenirs, the Statue of Liberty. No two are alike. Multiple replicas provide a three-dimensional freeze-frame for historians.
"You've seen the building change over time and there are miniatures of each phase of the building's history," says Kroll.
These trinkets were used for more than just paperweights. Innovative minters turned tiny towers into everything from lamps, to salt and pepper shakers, to kazoos. The Empire State Building inspired clocks, thermometers and a special picture-viewer.
The curator of the exhibit says, for many visitors, cleverness is in the eye of the beholder, not the maker.
"Quite a lot of people test their knowledge of buildings and cities by looking at them and trying to identify them," says Hamer.
It is, after all, a small world.
"Monumental Miniatures" runs through May 4.
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