Barbie taken into space to feature in new exhibition

Barbie taken into space to feature in new exhibition

A Barbie that has been into space will go on public display for the first time as part of the upcoming Design Museum exhibition to mark the 65th anniversary of the world-famous doll brand.

The doll is a likeness of European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut and Europe’s first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS), Samantha Cristoforetti, and it spent six months orbiting the Earth on the ISS with her in 2022.

The 47-year-old, who is a former Italian air force fighter pilot, told the PA news agency: “I think it’s a great achievement for the overall team to have this Barbie on display and to have it connect to many more people through this exhibition”.

In April 2022, Cristoforetti returned to the ISS for her second mission, Minerva, and during the mission she carried out her first spacewalk, becoming the first European woman to do so, according to the ESA.

During her time in orbit, she answered questions from five young girls, including why she wanted to become an astronaut, and video footage of the conversations will be shown in Barbie: The Exhibition alongside the doll.

Cristoforetti told PA it was an “opportunity to reach out to girls and boys to share the experience of an astronaut as a potential path in life, as a potential future, as a potential career… or as an adventure that you can be part of”.

Toy company Mattel, which makes Barbie, and the ESA released the Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie doll in 2021 to coincide with World Space Week, and to help encourage girls to become “the next generation of astronauts, engineers and space scientists”, according to the ESA’s official website.

The Cristoforetti doll is on loan to London from the ESA and its inclusion as part of Barbie: The Exhibition at the Design Museum will also highlight Barbie’s long history with space travel.

A silver all-in-one “Miss Astronaut” costume, which is described as “Barbie’s first depiction as an astronaut” and which came on the market for the time in 1965, will be part of the exhibition, on loan from the Mattel archives in Los Angeles.

Barbie showing off her “scientific prowess” in a metallic pink spacesuit, which was released in 1985, will also be on show. Its release followed astronaut and physicist Sally Ride making history in 1983, when she became the first American woman to go into space.

Danielle Thom, curator of Barbie: The Exhibition, told PA: “There was a one of a kind Barbie created for Samantha personally in the first instance, and that’s in her possession, that’s her doll.

“When the doll was created, although it was a one-off, it was publicised, and it was so well-received that Mattel decided to actually issue it as a doll you could buy… so the doll that we have in our exhibition, it’s not the first one, that’s in Samantha’s personal possession.

“It’s one of the ones that was made by Mattel that was available to buy widely. But it is specifically the doll that Samantha herself took into space. So the Barbie we are showing has actually orbited the Earth in the International Space Station.”

“We have this area within the wider exhibition where we look at the idea of exploration and adventure in all of its forms, and how playing with Barbie has facilitated that kind of imaginative role play”.

Thom also said it was “important that the exhibition offered a rigorous and thorough take on the history of Barbie”, adding: “We collaborated with Mattel very closely to get all the relevant information to honour the work that the brand itself has done, in designing the doll and in developing its sort of very identifiable, very strong visual codes and signifiers”.

Barbie: The Exhibition, which opens on July 5 and runs through to February 23 2025, will further seek to tell the story of the brand and how it has impacted culture throughout the decades.

Barbie was first launched in 1959 after its creator Ruth Handler wanted to craft a different narrative for her daughter Barbara.

A first edition doll that will also be on display, and is known by collectors as the “Number 1 Barbie”, is now highly sought after.

It sees the classic blonde Barbie in a black-and-white bathing suit and features holes in the feet where it would have been fixed to a stand.

Other dolls in the exhibition include “surfer girl” Sunset Malibu Barbie from 1971 and Day to Night Barbie from 1985, which saw her pink work suit transform into an evening gown.

Two examples of 1992’s Totally Hair Barbie, which featured the doll with extra long hair that could be styled, will also form part of the exhibition.

Barbie: The Exhibition will open at the Design Museum on July 5 2024.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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