My Museum Monday: 10


Barbie, 2010

As someone who researches the phenomenon of miniaturisation, I am fascinated by dolls (see also 18th May). So far my museum only contains a few “modern” dolls – an assemblage recovered from an abandoned and burn-out allotment hut, a single charity-shop Barbie and a lone rummage-sale Bratz doll. All are of course miniature representations of humans, and all are unrealistic to varying degrees, the Bratz doll, with her enormous head, being the most malformed, the 2010 Barbie an example of her most common elongated shape, and the 1996 male doll (the allotment assemblage was all either male or ungendered monsters) exaggeratedly muscular. 

Bratz doll, c 2010

Because miniature people, in the form of figurines but also objects that might be described as “dolls” (figurines that were meant to be handled, played with, dressed/undressed, manipulated and not simply displayed), occur in almost every age and every culture, their modern counterparts, and what they mean to us, are of great interest. Douglass Bailey has thought and written about this, as has Paul Mullins. Several university courses use modern dolls as instigators of research and thinking.

Male doll, 1996

This is an area I’ve only touched on so far, so I’ll not dwell on it here. Sufficient to say that I’m determined to explore it further, inspired by these archaeologists and researchers:

Mullins, Paul, 2014. Unapologetic Defiance: the Post-Feminist Barbie .

Mullins, Paul, 2013. Real Girls: Barbies, Role Models, and Play.

Pearson, Marlys, and Paul R. Mullins, 1999. Domesticating Barbie: An Archaeology of Barbie Material Culture and Domestic Ideology.  International Journal of Historical Archaeology 3/4, pp 228-29.

Bahr, Sarah (2020). Ms Understood: Barbie turns 50. Indianapolis Monthly.

Van Buskirk, Gregory, 2018. Antithesis to Barbie: Toys for Little Homemakers. American Icons, Temple University.

Russo, Claire, 2007. Bratz Dolls: An Example of Modern Day Figurines? Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World, Brown University.

Bailey, Douglas; 2005. Prehistoric Figurines: Representation and Corporeality in the Neolithic. Routledge. Taylor & Francis.

Author: ralphblog

I am a historical archaeologist, writer and editor. I live in Saanich, Victoria, British Columbia.

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