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Fabric Dolls of Tiny Activist Project Advocate for Historic Preservation

Anne Evans Anne Evans Fabric Dolls of Tiny Activist Project Advocate for Historic PreservationSarah Marsom sews Tiny Jane Jacobs dolls, sold through the Tiny Activist Project. Photo by Stephen Newport.
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If you found out that only 8% of designated historic sites represented the history of minority populations (women, people of color, LGBTQIA), what would you do about it?

Sarah Marsom, a Heritage Resource Consultant, decided to make educational fabric dolls, under her Tiny Activist Project. With the project, she seeks to highlight lesser-known stories of people who fought to save cultural resources.

“As a Heritage Resource Consultant I am always looking for new ways to help people understand the value of history and to connect them to places from the past,” says Marsom. “The dolls are inspired by advocates for the built environment.”

Her dolls are in the image of urbanist Jane Jacobs and architect I.M. Pei. They are created with special fabric that is printed through custom fabric company Spoonflower.

Related reading from The Metropreneur: How Using Spoonflower For Fabric Drove the Growth of the Tiny Activist Project

Marsom partners with her friend, Shannon May, a San Francisco based illustrator, to create the original fabric that now makes up each Tiny Activist Project doll.

The dolls have found homes in five continents and close to forty states, and each purchase contributes to a specific preservation cause. 

The Tiny Jane Jacobs doll of the Tiny Activist Project. Photo via Tiny Activist Project.
The Tiny Jane Jacobs doll sold through
the Tiny Activist Project.
Photo via Tiny Activist Project.

Most recently, Tiny Activist Project purchases “provided tiny scholarships for people with big dreams to encourage emerging professional attendance at PastForward 2017, 2018, and 2019.”

Later this year, the Tiny Jane Jacobs doll will be featured in ‘Power in Preservation’, an exhibition in Washington D.C.

Jacobs was an urbanist who envisioned a community-based approach to building cities. She wrote many books and articles, and is often remembered for The Death and Life of Great American Cities that she authored in 1961.

Marsom was recognized for her preservationist work in 2018 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an honoree on its inaugural 40 Under 40: People Saving Places list.

She’s also a founding member of the Young Ohio Preservationists. It’s a group organized under Heritage Ohio that focuses on making historic preservation accessible and inclusive for diverse age groups and lesser-known histories.

Marsom began selling the Tiny Jane Jacobs doll in 2016, when she took a prototype made of different fabrics to the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation conference.

“It was a hit!” she says. “I had people asking me how they could get their own doll.”

She continues to sew many of the dolls she sells, and has also added sew your own kits to her shop.

The ability to print custom fabric through Spoonflower has allowed her to fuse her preservation work with her passion for creating with textiles, giving people a tangible way to experience intangible heritage.

To purchase a doll from the Tiny Activist Project, visit sarahmarsom.com/tinyactivistprojectshop.

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