By Kelci McKendrick
MUSTANG, Okla. — A snippet of Barbie Land is in Mustang.
The Mustang Historical Society rounded up around 30 different Barbie dolls to display on Sept. 8 and 9, 2023, for the annual Western Days festival, held each year on the first full weekend after Labor Day.
Carole Hanna, president of the MHS — which has a mission of “preserving the past for the future” — said a few dozen people visited the Mustang Historical Museum to see the collection of Barbie dolls.
“About 40-some visitors stopped by,” Hanna said. “Some people dropped in, took a quick look and left, and other people stopped and visited with us and had a good time.”
The idea for the Barbie exhibit came about in celebration of the ‘Barbie’ movie’s box-office success over the summer, Hanna said.
The hope of the free Barbie exhibit, Hanna said, was to make visitors feel happy and nostalgic while also encouraging them to check out the rest of the Mustang Historical Museum, which displays historical artifacts dating back to the Oklahoma Land Run.
“We really just (wanted) people to enjoy the Barbie exhibit,” Hanna said, “and to know that Mustang Historical Society is in this building doing something. … People (were) able to go back and look at everything else we have there.”
And some people did just that, Hanna said.
“Quite a few people were interested in seeing the whole thing,” she said.
Barbie was founded in 1959 by Ruth Handler, whose philosophy behind the famous doll was that “a little girl could be anything she wanted to be and that she has choices,” according to the Barbie website.
Among the Barbie dolls at the Mustang Historical Museum are 16 international Barbies; nine military Barbies; four holiday Barbies; a Victorian Elegance Barbie; and even a Barbie donning a University of Oklahoma cheerleading outfit. Also on display are Jewel Secrets Skipper, Jewel Secrets Ken and Wedding Day Midge.
The military Barbies belong to Mary Ballard, who grew up in the United Kingdom and served as a lieutenant in the British Army.
Ballard met her now-husband after moving to the United States after Operation Desert Storm, and he gave her her first doll, Civil War Nurse Barbie, later gifting her other military-inspired Barbies.
She said she enjoys collecting the Barbies because “you could set your goals high to be whoever you want to be.”
After seeing a Facebook post from MHS related to the Barbie exhibit, Ballard reached out to share her Barbies with the Mustang community, and, like Hanna, wanted visitors to enjoy them.
“I just want girls to know … that they can do whatever they want to,” she said. “Society, in general, is changing, and I think Barbie had something to do with that — ‘Hey, we can do it all.’”
The others on display are just a fraction of all of the Barbie dolls Kelly Finchum had collected throughout the past 60 years.
Finchum’s mother Connie gave her her first Barbie doll in 1963 when she was 3 years old, and she ended up accumulating dozens of them — “easily more than 100.”
“There are a lot of memories tied to them all,” she said, adding that she has sold and given away a few of her Barbies by now. “But, I still have the very first Barbie I ever got.”
Finchum’s sister Kim Smith lives in Mustang, and the family was connected to MHS through Dietra Bradsher, a MHS member and relative of the Finchums.
“It’s amazing when you think about toys and stuff — that Barbie is still around after all this time,” Finchum said, adding that she hoped visitors liked seeing the Barbie dolls.
Bradsher echoed Hanna’s hopes — that the Barbie dolls on display brought a sense of nostalgia to anyone who saw them and enticed people to check out the other items at the Mustang Historical Museum.
“I hope it (stirred) up all of those memories of being a child and getting to play with Barbies,” Bradsher said. “And, for those who have kids and grandkids — maybe (the kids and grandkids got) to enjoy Barbies as much as they did. …
“I hope it (was) a driver to get them in the door to reminisce about Barbies and then go through the Museum.”
Hanna said the exhibit is still up on display at the Mustang Historical Museum, located at 470 SH-152, and should be throughout the month of September.
Anyone interested in checking out the Barbie dolls — or the many historical items — can visit the Mustang Historical Museum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday or make an appointment for other days.
MHS can be reached by calling (405) 623-7379 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mustang Historical Museum, according to Travel Oklahoma, “is mostly devoted to early Mustang and the town’s beginnings.”
More information on the Mustang Historical Museum can be found at https://www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.5243, and to stay up-to-date with MHS and the museum’s happenings, visit “Mustang Historical Society” on Facebook.