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Monday, Oct. 12, 2009

The Guise of Dolls

A New Exhibit in Waukesha

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I’ve been leery of dolls since the clown-under-the-bed scene in Poltergeist. The subsequent Child’s Play films, featuring the murderous mannequin Chucky, failed entirely to erase my unease around these allegedly inanimate effigies.

Counseling has helped, though, to the point where I am now en route to take in “Dolls of the World: Customs, Cultures and Celebrations,” opening Oct. 17 at the Waukesha County Museum and on display through Jan. 30. The exhibit features figures from the New York Toy Museum, representing ethnic groups from 65 different countries, and also a local collection from philanthropist Lisa Cudahy.

Viewed in their historical context, dolls, and indeed toys in general, offer a visual history of both evolving fashion sensibilities and cultural / ethical mores. The cornhusk dolls of the early American settlers portray a time and place at variance with the heavily made-up, short-skirted Bratz dolls of today, for example.

The Waukesha County Museum is located at 101 W. Main St. in the city of Waukesha, and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.