Explore the world, one doll at a time

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Explore the world, one doll at a time


Sure, many young girls the world over have owned, or at least seen, the classic Barbie doll - which exudes Americana. But what about a doll wearing a colorful dress from Italy or a hanbok from Korea?

A new exhibit at the National Folk Museum in Gyeonbok Palace, central Seoul, displays hundreds of unique dolls from around the world, many of them decked out in traditional outfits from the countries they represent. The World Dolls’ Party marks the museum’s first special exhibition, which aims to introduce the customs and cultures of other countries via these little envoys.

“I want to make children feel like they are taking a trip across the world through these dolls,” said Yi Eun-mi, the museum’s curator for special exhibitions. “I want to make them see a bigger universe.”

That focus is clear from the minute visitors walk into the exhibition, when they’re given a pamphlet that lists translations of the word “hello” in 38 different languages from many of the countries the dolls represent.

The exhibition was made possible by Beckers Kim, a professor of Korean literature at Regensburg University in Germany and an avid doll collector. Kim donated more than 600 dolls wearing traditional costumes from 45 countries.

“She originally wanted to set up her own museum to introduce Koreans to foreign cultures through these dolls,” Yi said. “She is always collecting Korean artifacts and articles of traditional culture to share with the rest of the world.”

It wasn’t Kim’s first donation to the National Folk Museum; she also has provided antique books with Korean-related content.

For this exhibit, Kim Young-jun, a collector and shop owner of Korean artifacts from the 19th century, also offered up more than 100 Korean dolls - some of which were made in the 1800s. Representatives for cultural exchange at the Folk museum from other countries contributed as well.

Aside from the actual doll displays, the exhibition features several other activities and attractions. One lets children create stories revolving around certain dolls, while another features an interactive media area where images of dolls walk onto a screen and say hello in their respective languages. Children also can see how some of the dolls would look in different clothes.

Farzana Hyland, a professor at Sookmyung University, said she was delighted with the exhibit “for very personal reasons.”

“My sister collects dolls, and I can actually see some of the things that she has told me about in the past,” Hyland said.

Park Sun-hee recently brought her two children to the exhibit to introduce them to different cultures. “It is important for them to know that people in other parts of the world have their own characteristics,” she said.

By Hannah Kim Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

The exhibit will run at the National Folk Museum until Nov. 16. Go to Gyeongbokgung Station, line No. 3, exit 5.

For more information, call (02) 3704-2113 or visit www.nfm.go.kr
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