In 1984, soon after I started collecting Barbie dolls, a museum in Indianapolis did a Barbie doll display featuring hundreds of 1960s dolls and outfits loaned by Indy residents.
The exhibit called The Barbie Fashion Experience, now at the Children's Museum in Indy, is very different from that original exhibit. This one is by Mattel and is not nearly as comprehensive. It's also aimed at a much younger audience.
That doesn't make it bad, just a bit underwhelming. As an adult collector I was expecting much more. Even if Mattel hasn't kept all that great of archives regarding its goddess, surely it could have requested the help of the millions of Barbie collectors out there to add to the information and displays?
So this is what IS there:
There are a number of glass display cases featuring dolls, some of them redressed, plus several houses and cars. The beginning of the exhibit was scenes by decade of our friends playing or sitting, plus painted scenic backgrounds, much like dioramas. The three most impressive dolls were a NRFB sidepart American Girl, a NRFB blonde Color Magic, and a black Francie redressed in Twiggy Turnouts. Although we collectors know the significance of these three dolls, the general public is NOT going to know why those three dolls were exhibited. And, no, there also WASN'T a number one displayed! Isn't that a mortal sin? There were only a few Kens, Skippers and friends displayed, and no mention at all of Stacie/Tutti or Kelly. Most annoying of all, some of the doll dates and at least one outfit name were wrong!
Other information areas--human size mannequins dressed in outfits by contemporary designers--the dresses look like something Barbie would wear; 1960s real-life examples of ensembles that Mattel adapted for Barbie; and play areas for little girls that have makeup, scarves and wigs to try on.
The best part, in my opinion, was the Barbie commercials that were shown. Although they aren't in chronological order, every decade is represented. Unfortunately, the commercials are undated. I knew what year each one was from, but the public sure isn't going to know that information! One interesting piece of trivia I learned was this: I knew that Maureen McCormick had done a Talking Barbie commercial, but I didn't know she'd also done one for Living Barbie; and most interesting of all, Eve Plumb had also done a different Talking Barbie commercial! (I didn't watch the entire video. If anyone else has been to the exhibit and watched the program, is the commercial with the Lockhart girls on there as well?)
Also, there will be a showing of "Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale," the evening of Friday, Sept. 17, if anyone is interested.
These are the specifics about the museum: Its address is 3000 N. Meridian St. and its phone number is (317) 334-3322. The Barbie exhibit continues through Feb. 1, 2011. It takes about 45 minutes to look at all the Barbie stuff and probably three or four hours to look through the entire museum. Two other temporary exhibits are there currently, one about Star Wars and the other about rock musicians. Admission is $15.50 for adults or $13.95 if you have an AAA membership. There is a garage across the street and parking there is free.
One last bizarre detail: The gift shop had its own window display. Someone had taken dozens of the reproduction Malibu Barbie and Rockers Barbie and lined them up in rows on boards. Haven't a clue why. They're not for sale.