Historical Photomerge: Fairy Castle

Colleen Moore's Fairytale Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry
Colleen Moore’s “Fairy Castle” on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL.

The Backstory of Fairy Castle

Colleen Moore was a popular 1920’s silent film star. In her personal life, Moore’s passion was assembling and furnishing fantasy dollhouses. In 1928 she began work on the castle seen here. She utilized the talents of Hollywood filmmakers and at least a hundred skilled craftsmen on the project. The castle features fully furnished rooms with exquisitely detailed miniatures, some adorned with real gold and precious stones. The exhibit has been valued as high as 7 million dollars. Moore worked on the project for 60 years until her death in 1988. This museum and exhibit are “must-sees” if you are in Chicago.

Historical Photomerge Process

I should subtitle this one as the “unplanned photomerge.” I was chaperoning my son and two classmates on a school field trip of the museum. As we walked into the exhibit I spotted a fabulous archival photo of Moore sitting in her beloved castle so I snapped a shot. As we began to leave the exhibit it dawned on me that if I could get at a similar angle as the archival shot I might have a photomerge on my hands. So I snapped a few shots and hoped for the best. Normally lining up the two shots takes lots of pre-planning.

Colleen Moore's Fairytale Castle Historical Photomerge

Back at the office I was discouraged that my best angled shot showed the plexiglass seams and museum guests, but then I realized those elements actually strengthen the story and illusion. Over the past few years children have wound up crawling into  arcade machines in Walmart store lobbies. You know, those machines with the claw they control to grab a prize? I thought, “What if I could do something similar with Colleen Moore, showing her still actively working on her creation in the museum environment as guests watched?” After a few hours of tedious Photoshopping the result is a thought provoking tribute.


Just a few of the room scenes and details

I deeply appreciate Colleen Moore’s eye for detail and wanting to share her castle with the public. It reminds me a great deal of Walt Disney’s creativity behind Disneyland. That same joy of crafting fantasy that brings a smile is what drives me to produce historical photomerges.

Sources / Learn More

There is so much to this fascinating story. Click links below to learn and see more.

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