The Neville Public Museum

The Neville Blog

What’s the 411 on these ‘90s toys?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In the last three weeks interning here at the Neville, I have been working on cataloging a collection donated by the Colburn family. ThNPM #2016.6.4e donor’s grandfather, Enos Colburn, served as President of the City Board of Park Commissioners in Green Bay from 1938 until his death in 1945. Colburn Park was renamed after Enos Colburn in 1956 in remembrance of his dedication and services to the environment.

Within the donated collection were two Beanie Babies, which were of particular interest to me. One can only imagine how silly I felt wearing gloves to hold a Beanie Baby that was ‘born’ just a year after I was! But using gloves to hold any object within the museum’s collection is best practice used by all museums no matter how old the object is. Although I felt odd using gloves to hold the Beanie Babies, I understood it was necessary for the object to stay in a condition that can last another 100 years.  It’s hard to think of our everyday objects as historical because we don’t consciously think that we are currently creating history.

Everyday objects such as Beanie Babies made history with their release in the early 1990s. The first Beanie Baby™ was released in 1993 and ultimately began the trend that had people collecting as many as they could get their hands on. The craze escalated when Ty Warner, owner of the company that distributNPM #1995.24.8bed the Beanie Babies, began to retire certain Beanie Babies. By 1995, this strategy pushed Beanie Babies as the most wanted toys in the country.

Along a similar vein would be the collecting of Mattel’s Barbie ™  Dolls. The Neville has a wide-ranging collection of dolls including many Barbies. One particular Barbie, the Masquerade Ball Barbie is 1 of 8 donated to the museum for an exhibit in 1995. The donor, Georgia Rankin collected around 2,000 Barbie Dolls between 1959 and 2000. Rankin said her reason for collecting the dolls stems from her belief that the dolls replicate how real world fashions change and teaches young girls they can grow up to be anyone they want to be.

Museums collect objects that tell a story about our history. Both Beanie Babies and Barbies reflect social movements before 2000. These kid’s toys were a large part of people’s lives and by keeping a couple of Beanie Babies and Barbies in the collection here in the Neville we have a part of that moment in history. If the object has made a large impact on the world, that is something that should be preserved for future generations to observe.
Visit the Neville Public Museum to see Beanie Babies “Speedy” and “Erin” from the Colburn collection and more from the 1990s.

Kylie LaCombe
Intern, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point

Is Barbie Crying?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

 

Here at the Neville Public Museum we care for an extensive doll collection.  This collection houses dolls from around the world including Barbie dolls.  The Barbies in our collection range in date from the 1950s through the 1990s.  Through time the materials used to make barbies changed.  Here are a few examples from our collection.

This Barbie was received as a gift from the Neville Public Museum Corporation.  It was purchased from Georgia Rankin, a Barbie collector from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in the 1960s.  The black and white swimsuit worn by the doll is the original outfit traditionally worn by dolls manufactured from 1959-1961.  

 

 

This picture shows one of the newer Barbies in our collection.  It's a part of the Hollywood Legends Collection/Collector's Edition and represents Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  

Although both of these dolls were manufactured by the same company, they were created using different materials.  This means we have to care for these dolls in different ways.  Glinda the Good Witch was manufactured in the 1990s and was donated in her original box.  The change in plastic used in manufacturing allows us to store the doll in regular collections storage.  

 

The Barbie from Georgia Rankin is not stored with the other dolls in our collection; she is actually stored in collections cold storage with lower humidity.  This is because the doll was made using earlier plastics. 

The plastics used for Barbie dolls manufactured in the 1950s and early 1960s used PVC, which is brittle.  In order to make Barbie flexible, they added a plasticizer when the doll was being molded.  As these dolls age, the plasticizer can ooze out of the doll and form a tacky slime across the surface.  This is why some dolls can appear to be wet.  Warm and humid environments can cause the oozing to occur earlier.  By storing some of our Barbies in cold storage we are able to slow this process and preserve them longer. 

James Peth, Research Technician 


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