The Thorne Minature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago:
I saw this exhibit in Chicago when I was eleven or twelve years old, and I remember being dumbfounded by the ingenuity, skill, artistry, and sheer persistence of those artisans who made these remarkable works of art in the 1930's and '40's under the auspices of and with funding from Mrs. James Ward Thorne.
So far as I know, there is nothing else quite like this exhibit in the world.
There is a lot I like about Chicago -- I've always had a great time when I've been there -- but this exhibit made more of an impression on me than just about anything else in the city.
And yet... looking at these miniature rooms now, I'm still struck by the sheer boldness and creativity of it all, but even more I'm struck how nothing seems to have changed except for the exhibit space itself. (Of course, close comparison shows that there have been some subtle changes over the years.) Nevertheless, the rooms are preserved as if in aspic or amber. But for some tarnish on the silver (watch for it), these rooms appear now essentially as they did when they were first installed.