Barbie: Mattel’s Hidden Archives Revealed In New Design Museum Exhibition


The Design Museum in London has announced its plans to showcase a groundbreaking exhibition delving into the history of the iconic Barbie doll. 

This event coincides with Barbie’s 65th birthday celebration in 2024. It promises to unveil the evolution of this special doll, a journey spanning over six decades. Three years in the making, this venture has been made possible through an extraordinary alliance with the masterminds behind Barbie, Mattel Inc. Thanks to this partnership, the Design Museum has been granted unprecedented access to Mattel’s secret Barbie archives nestled in the heart of California. Among the treasures unveiled are rare and quirky artefacts, many of which have never seen the light of day, standing as a testament to Barbie’s rich legacy.

Danielle Thom, Curator at the Design Museum, will head up this unprecedented exhibition. She aims to narrate the Barbie saga from its genesis in 1959 when Ruth Handler, with a heart brimming with creativity, sought to craft a different world for her daughter, Barbara.

Barbie’s House Photo: Courtesy Design Museum

The exhibition will unravel the story of Barbie through the lens of design, exploring diverse domains such as fashion, architecture, furniture, and vehicle design, underscoring the doll’s pervasive influence across various creative spheres.

Tim Marlow, the dynamic Director of the Design Museum, expressed his exhilaration at this collaboration. “Barbie is one of the most recognisable brands on the planet, and as we’ve seen recently, her story evolves with each new generation,” he declared, praising Mattel for their invaluable contributions. “We look forward next year to displaying a whole range of eye-catching objects, some familiar but many never seen before, to showcase the evolution of design across the decades of Barbie’s world.”

The show is slated for 05 July 2024 at the Design Museum. Further details about this highly anticipated exhibition will be unveiled, and tickets, expected to be in high demand, will go on sale in the spring.

This awe-inspiring journey through the kaleidoscopic world of Barbie is a tale of creativity, innovation, and timeless allure.

The Design Museum, renowned globally as the paramount institution devoted to contemporary architecture and design, is the ideal host for this transformative event. Since its inception in 1989, the museum has been a beacon of creative brilliance, showcasing everything from iconic AK-47s to exquisite high heels designed by none other than Christian Louboutin. With over 100 exhibitions, the Design Museum has welcomed more than seven million visitors, presenting the work of eminent designers and architects like Paul Smith, Zaha Hadid, Jonathan Ive, and Frank Gehry.

Following its relocation to Kensington in 2016, the Design Museum found a new home in the renovated interior of a 1960s modernist building. It provided an expansive canvas for exploring a broader range of exhibitions and extending its learning programs. In the years since, it has played host to many captivating collections, including Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, Moving to Mars, and the recently concluded, intriguing showcase, Waste Age: What Can Design Do? The upcoming Barbie exhibition is poised to be another jewel in the museum’s glittering crown. Stay tuned as Barbie’s captivating tale unfolds at the heart of London, promising an unforgettable experience for enthusiasts and aficionados alike.

Photos: © Courtesy Design Museum

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