Helsinki: Museum of Finland (part 1, day 1)

On our first day in Helsinki we wanted to get a little introduction to Finnish history, so we spent most of the day at the National Museum of Finland. Since I took so many photos I will dedicate my next couple of posts to this museum. These exhibitions I will take you through today, were mine and Octavia’s favorites. They were the temporary exhibition, Barbie: the icon and Workshop Vintti.

The National Museum of Finland (Kansallismuseo) is located a short distance (walking) north of Helsinki city center. It is housed in an large castle-like building, which is very Finnish in its architectural design. It was designed by architects Herman GeselliusArmas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen and built in 1905-10. The exterior is National Romanticism and the interior is Art Nouveau. Some of the exterior features that we saw as entering the museum was a statue of Finland’s national animal, the brown bear; and a bullet hole left in the glass door from the civil war of 1918. Upon entering the museum we saw the beautiful ceiling frescoe, depicting that national epic Kalevala. It was painted by Akseli Gallén-Kallela in 1928 and are based on the frescoes painted by Gallén-Kallela in the Finnish Pavilion of the Paris World Fair in 1900. Another beautiful feature was the stain glass windows in the main staircase.

The museum is opened Tuesday to Sunday (or daily in the summer months), from 11am to 6pm/8pm (on Wednesday). The ticket price on our visit was 12 Euro for an adults, 9 euro for concession and free for people under 18. We did pay a little extra on our visit to see the temporary Barbie exhibition. The museum also offers guided tours, workshops, children’s birthday tours for additional fees. There are also free audio guides available for some exhibitions. If you get hungry you can visit the cafeteria inside or go across the road to Café Huvila like we did.

The museum presents Finland’s history, chronologically from the Stone age (1700s), up until today. It is split into six sections, which include Treasure Troves, Prehistory of Finland, The Realm, The Land and its People, Exhibition on 20th Century, and Suomi Finland 1900. We weren’t able to see all of the exhibitions, but we did get around to see
Finish Prehistory, The Realm, Story of Finland, as well as the kid’s Workshop Vintti and the temporary exhibition, Barbie: The Icon.

Barbie: The Icon

The first exhibition we saw visited was Barbie: the Icon, since it was located on the first floor, across from the foyer. I didn’t plan on seeing this exhibition, but I also had to see it. When I was a growing up, Barbie was my favourite toy. I will never forget my 10th birthday when I got the Barbie Fold n’ Fun house, the convertible and a extra Barbie cloths. I haven’t encouraged Barbie for Octavia at all and she prefers to play with animal toys. But I could see she was just as mesmerized by all those beautiful dolls in this exhibition as I was.

This travelling exhibition was curated by professor Massimiliano Capella and produced by 24 ORE Cultura and Mattel. It was exhibited in many European cities, including Milan, Rome, Bologna and Madrid. This exhibition tells the story of Barbara Millicent Roberts aka Barbie. It features 450 original Barbie Dolls, which were from private collectors and Mattel. The exhibition is split into eight theme, which define the life of Barbie over the past six decades. There is no denying Barbie is symbolic figure, who is constantly evolved to represent the modern woman.


This first display shows the evolution of Barbie from from 1959 until 2016. She began as a teenage fashion modern and has transformed over time to what we see today. Over time different moulds were used for Barbies head and body. This displays shows fifteen dolls most important changes that have taken place over the past few decades.

What a Doll…from Teenage fashion Model doll to Fashionista

This next display is presents the Barbie’s life as a fashionista and throughout the different decades. It demonstrates that Barbie fashion reflected the variety of different trends that appeared in each decade. She also had optional wardrobes editions that could be purchased separated, which also made her very versatile.

Fashion and Vintage Silkstone Barbie Dolls

In 2000, the Silkstone Barbie was launched, which embodied the haute couture elegance of the 50s and 60s. It was created by the designer Robert Best. These Barbies were made of silkstone, which are are type of soft plastic, which looks like porcelain. These Barbies were altered to bring back the facial features and makeup of the 1959 Ponytail Barbie. Their hair is made of superior quality fiber. These dolls were dressed in lingerie, day wear, and evening gala wear that reflected old Hollywood styles. They also have a permanent pose, with their right arm on their hip and left leg slightly bent and their feet had a higher arch for very high heels. These Barbies are representative of Barbie as a icon of seduction.

Barbie on the Catwork

The next display shows the fashion designer doll collaborations from 1985 with high-end designers. Some of which include BillyBoy*, Oscar de la Renta, Moschino, Versace, Dior, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood, Prada and Givency. The first designer to draw sketches for Barbie was BillyBoy* in 1984, which lead Nouveau Theatre de la Mode (1985) and Feelin ‘Groovy Barbie (1987) (see below). Oscar de la Renta also began collaborating with Mattel, to produce four haute-couture dresses, which could be purchased separate to the doll (1985). By the late 80s most of the biggest fashion designers created collections that were dedicated to Barbie.

The Barbie Family

This display shows how Barbie enjoyed spending her time with family and friends. Her family was built-up over time to include give younger sisters (Skipper, Tutti, Stacie, Shelly, little Krissy), a brother (Todd) and two cousins (‘Mod’Francie and Jazzie). She also had a best friend Midge and her legendary boyfriend, Ken. More doll family and friends would appear overtime and disappear. Over the years, Barbie, her friends and family would transform, as did their playset homes, cars and accessories and they also would acquired some pets.

I can Be…Barbie Careers

Perhaps my favorite thing about Barbie when I was growing up is that she could be anything. Barbie has had over 180 careers in her 56 years. This has showed little girls that they could be whoever they wanted to be. Shes has paid homage to the first female astronaut, Valentina Tereskova, enlisted in the army and been President of the USA.

Celebrity and Art Work Barbie Global Icon

Besides being a fashion icon, Barbie has also embodied a variety of legendary female figures, including pop culture and movie personalities, inspiring women and royals. These are perhaps my favorite Barbie dolls, as their facial features are altered to represent the character and they are so nostalgic.

Barbie World Citizen: The Dolls of the World

The last display is another one of my favorites, as its represents all the different International dolls of the world. I actually collect dolls when I travel and I can only dream to have dolls as beautiful as these. These dolls were launched from the 80s and were designed by Antonio Russo. They represent countries from nearly every continent. I didn’t see one from Australia, but they do have the Australian dolls the Barbie website.

Workshop Vintti

Our last stop at the museum was Workshop Vintti, which is an interactive exhibition, aimed at kids. Some of the activities include harnessing a horse, pulling a cart and building a log cabin. Probably the most popular attractions was the large horse, general stores and build a cabin. For older kids and adults there are plenty of text in and around the activities, which gives more meaning to the activities and theme of this space.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through through the Barbie exhibition and Workshop Vintti. Next I will take you through the exhibitions that represents Finland’s history to present.

Are you a Barbie fan? I have you seen this exhibition?

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