Barbie You Can Be Anything The Experience at The Strong

Breaking Boundaries: Barbie’s Legacy Illuminated at The Strong

The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, welcomes Barbie You Can Be Anything: The Experience to its schedule of temporary exhibits.

Barbie was introduced by Mattel in 1959 and evolved into a cultural phenomenon. The fashion doll inspired reflection about the changing attitudes towards gender roles and provided a platform for children to envision a wide range of career possibilities. The exhibit examines Barbie’s impact on popular culture and emphasizes the importance of empowering individuals to cultivate their interests and delve into various possibilities.

Barbie’s many career accomplishments over the past 60 years have included astronaut, politician, chef, veterinarian, and teacher, to name only a handful. The exhibit highlights Barbie’s engagement in more than 200 occupations and offers five unique interactive areas in which visitors can imagine themselves as:

  • adventurer
  • leader
  • creator
  • nurturer
  • problem solver

Alongside Barbie, Ella Fitzgerald, Amelia Earhart, Laurie Hernandez, and others are presented as examples of real-life boundary-breaking women. Interactive elements encourage hands-on imaginative play with explorations into domains that may be unfamiliar to young visitors.

Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections and chief curator at The Strong shared with Toy Tales, “At The Strong National Museum of Play, we view toys as power sources for inspiring children’s play. Across the decades, kids have used Barbie as the central character in countless stories that they’ve created using their imaginations.” He continued, “Barbie You Can Be Anything: The Experience scales up classic doll play into kid-sized environments that allow children to be the stars of those stories. It also allows kids to imagine themselves in countless careers, all inspired by the more than 200 careers that Barbie has held over the years.”

The Strong has long recognized the significance and influence of the Barbie brand. The organization inducted the doll into its National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998 and in April 2023 announced the launch of Bringing Barbie to Everyone, a digitization project that will make its collection of nearly 3,000 Barbie artifacts accessible via its Online Collections portal.

The Strong hopes that bringing Barbie You Can Be Anything to the museum will ignite the imaginations of visitors. Bensch explained, “In an era when it feels like there’s a lot of structured play — whether in sports leagues, tabletop games, or video games — it’s good to focus on the power of imaginative play that’s kid-driven. As the exhibit’s title says, ‘You can be anything,’ and the exhibit emphasizes that limitlessness. As the kids test out the different careers, they may even find a new inspiration or passion!”

Barbie You Can Be Anything: The Experience is presented now through May 12, 2024. Learn more on The Strong’s website. The exhibit was produced by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in partnership with Mattel.