Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dolls with Books Exhibit Entry 1

Dolls with Books library exhibit

As I mentioned in my previous post, Saba's Sandals and New Temporary Home, Saba (the doll on the first shelf, far left) is now part of a Dolls with Books exhibit at a local library.

I created this exhibit initially in 2003 using existing dolls from my collection.  The dolls included in the exhibit were either manufactured with books or their creation (either mass produced or fashioned by me) was inspired by a storybook character or historical figure.   None of the dolls in this post were manufactured with a book.  Subsequent posts will feature dolls that were manufactured with books.

L-R:  Saba, Topsy, Annabelle, Bessie Coleman

This post features the other dolls that share the top left display shelf with Saba.  They are  Topsy, Annabelle by Robert Raikes, and Madame Alexander's Bessie Coleman. Below is a closer look at these three along with their featured books and the text from their object labels.

Topsy (1960s version), one of many dolls named after the character in the 1851 book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Chapter 20 is devoted to Topsy, a dark-skinned slave girl with multiple braids.  The book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, describes the behaviors of several slaves, adults and children, with Uncle Tom and Topsy being among the most unforgettable.
Note:  Topsy was nude before I took her to the library exhibit.  I fashioned a romper for her using white stretch lace. 

Annabelle is a cherry wood doll from the Hitty doll line by Robert Raikes, 2004.  Annabelle is the African friend of Robert Raikes’ doll, Hitty.  In the book, Hitty Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field, 1929, Hitty tells of her travels throughout the world that span over 100 years beginning in the 1800s. Hitty meets several different people from different cultures.  One of the places she visits and meets friends is Africa.

Note:  Annabelle is Robert Raikes' interpretation of a dark-skinned friend of his doll Hitty .  His Hitty and Annabelle dolls were inspired by the book by Rachel Field, Hitty Her First Hundred Years.  An Annabelle character is not featured in this book; however, because Raikes created Annabelle and because in the book, Hitty travels to Africa where she meets new friends and learns about their culture, I combined the Raikes' doll with Field's book to include in my exhibit. 

The final exhibit doll in this post is Bessie Coleman manufactured in 2009.  This doll is a new edition to my Dolls with Books exhibit that I added because she represents a positive historical female. 

Bessie Coleman by Madame Alexander represents the first African American female pilot.  Bessie Coleman First Black Woman Pilot by Connie Plantz, 2001, tells how Bessie Coleman overcame racial bigotry and gender bias attempts to prevent her from entering flight training school to learn to fly airplanes in the 1920s.  Her dream eventually became a reality and she made aviation history in the process.  

In a comment to my original post, Muff wanted to know:
  • How the exhibit came to fruition?  This particular library was closed for several years until it recently reopened in April 2013.  I visit it frequently and have noticed only two different displays in the exhibit cases.  The first was perhaps an indigenous American display that caught my attention because of the American Girl Kaya doll it featured.  The second exhibit that remained in place for several months was a 1970s rhythm and blues album collection.  I distinctly remember always noticing Minnie Ripperton's Perfect Angel album cover each time I walked past. 
  • Did the library contact you, did you contact them? After I returned a book I borrowed (Perfect Peace by Daniel Black, that I could not force myself to finish reading because the adult characters were so backward), I asked the librarian, "Who do I need to talk to about exhibiting some items in your display case?"  I was referred to the library manager who became quite excited after I asked about displaying dolls there.  (Incidentally, the 1970s R&B LPs belong to her father.)  I asked her if there was any particular type doll she preferred -- fashion dolls, artist dolls, historical dolls etc.  She said she would leave that up to me.  Before I reached my car to return home, the Dolls with Books exhibit came to mind. 
  • Will the exhibit roam to other libraries?  At this time, I do not have any immediate plans to allow the exhibit to roam to other libraries, but if I am asked I will consider it. In the past, at other one-day exhibits, I have included a presentation for children where each doll is discussed.  I am open to an invitation to do that as well.


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  1. Applause for combining dolls with books. I can see the Girls Explore series alongside your choices.

    1. Thanks, D7ana. If I owned Girls Explore, they would certainly be included.


  2. This is wonderful! I have to admit that with the advent of digital books, ereaders and the like, I have not frequented a physical library since probably 2006. Although, I do read several books a week that I download from my Library's online website, it's not the same as exploring the stacks.

    I think it's great how you've pulled this together and thanks so much for answering my questions.

    1. Hi Muff,

      I enjoy my electronic books, too, but there's something about holding a real book in my hands that I have to experience from time to time. Plus, books at the library are free (well, electronic library books are, too, but the selection is not as wide). Most free electronic books through Kindle are not worth my time. I have, however, lucked up on a few specials when authors have offered them as free downloads for a brief period, but you really have to be on the lookout.

      I receive daily emails from BookBub, but I can probably count on both hands the free books that have interested me enough to download, and more than half of those really did not. Plus, I just like being in a library, particular this one. If I "had" to work outside the home, a library or a museum would be the top two places I wouldn't mind working.


  3. I'm so excited that you are showing each of the books. I LOVE that Bessie Coleman doll. My favorite place to go and relax was the bookstore, Barnes and Nobles being my first choice. Unfortunately, the one closest to me closed down because of a leasing dispute. Broke my heart. I LOVE books.

    1. I love the Bessie Coleman doll, too, and her story. I was going to add my Madame Alexander Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, and Madam C. J. Walker dolls to the exhibit. I ordered books about them, but they arrived the day after I set the exhibit up. Since the display cases were relatively full, I didn't add these three. But I'll be prepared to do so if the exhibit is shared again elsewhere.

      I love books too, I just wish I had more "alert" time to get in the amount of reading that I desire.



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