Miniature museum open for celebration

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Doors to the new Pettus Randall Miniature Museum of American History open at the American Village at noon on Feb. 22.

The Village’s newest building houses an inspired collection of 72 handcrafted miniatures of American presidents and first ladies and 35 uniquely detailed dioramas of critical moments in our nation’s history.

Both the museum and building were donated to the American Village by the Pettus Randall III family of Tuscaloosa, as a tribute to Pettus Randall Jr., who started the museum back in the early 1960s as a way to take America’s story to children. The entire collection had been packed away in dusty boxes for more than 40 years.

Last spring, Pettus Randall III, who had been diagnosed with cancer, decided the time had come to rebuild his father’s dream at the American Village, the place he called &uot;the museum’s perfect home.&uot;

Randall III, who died last fall, devoted the last year of his life working with the American Village staff to restore the museum to its original state and to design and build the collection’s permanent home.

The $1.5 million dollar original collection was created by sculptors and artists from 11 states who were commissioned to research and execute the plan. Photographs, drawings and costumes from the Smithsonian Institute were used to create the presidents and first ladies, each proportioned to exact height and weight.

Buyers were sent to New York to secure appropriate fabric for the inaugural gowns, and skilled craftsmen detailed each piece of the museum with authentic miniature dishes, utensils, lamps, stoves, weapons and microscopic jewelry.

The original creation required more than 150,000 hours of research and construction. Construction on the new museum building at the Village began last summer.

Tom Walker, executive director of the American Village, heralded the work of the many volunteers on the project.

&uot;The efforts of the volunteers who worked tirelessly to see this project completed in record time is a testament to Pettus Randall III. Those who loved him wanted to make sure he was able to see completion of the first phase of this project. He is a man who will be remembered as a symbol for what we teach here at the Village &045; that each of us is charged with the responsibility for making a difference.

&uot;His life exemplified that. Indeed, his legacy of the Pettus Randall Miniature Museum of American History will be here for all our children and our children’s children as a reminder of that great legacy.&uot;

The grand opening of this new exhibit kicks off the annual George Washington Birthday celebration at the Village when kids of all ages are invited to come to the party dressed as their favorite character in American history.

The $3 admission includes a visit to the museum, birthday cake and an afternoon filled with colonial games, puppet shows and more.

For information, call 665-3535 or visit