The Barbie Collector

One collector realises her ‘dream’ to share her extraordinary Barbie collection.

Wellington Museum brings Barbie-mania to the capital with free-entry exhibition The Barbie Collector featuring close to 500 Barbies and Kens owned by one of New Zealand’s biggest Barbie collectors, Patsy Carlyle.

Open daily until Sunday 10 September, The Barbie Collector shines a short – but bright! – spotlight on the social history of Barbie, noting how this iconic doll has changed across time. The Barbie Collector is also a portrait of Patsy Carlyle. Everyone knows Barbie, but now you can meet Patsy too.

Patsy is a ‘proud westie’ who lives in a house in Helensville nicknamed ‘the pink palace’, with over 1,600 boxed Barbie dolls and 400+ freestanding dolls.  She began collecting Barbie in the nineties and says, “It started as a bit of a joke to be honest, then it got a little out of hand.” She also notes, “the house was pink when we bought it.”

“People that you least expect collect,” says Patsy, who worked as an ambulance officer for Hato Hone St John Ambulance for forty years before retiring in 2022. In 1985, she became one of only six women then employed in Auckland as an ambulance officer. Patsy says, “They say people who collect things live longer.”

Patsy also has two ‘one of a kind’ Barbies made especially for her in St John paramedic uniforms. The first was made for her by her close friend Sandra, the second doll was gifted to Patsy by the St John Helensville Area Committee.

For Patsy, her collection has offered a fun alternative to the stress and seriousness of her job at Hato Hone St John Ambulance. “Half the fun is in finding the dolls.” She also loves the joy her collection brings to others. “I have so many stories to share!” Barbie has range. Patsy’s collection reflects the countless identities and achievements of the Mattel doll. From rock star to palaeontologist, Barbie has done it all. The Barbie Collector line-up includes Peruvian Barbie, the best-selling Totally Hair Barbie, accidental gay icon Earring Magic Ken, and the earliest doll in her collection, the 1961 Nurse Barbie.

The Barbie Collector also features a digital photo series of Patsy’s freestanding Barbie portraits by award-winning photographer Yvonne Todd.

You can design your own Barbie an outfit at the exhibition’s craft station and make your Barbie dreams come true by taking photos in the life-size Barbie and Ken boxes.

Wellington Museum is hosting a range of Barbie-inspired events to accompany the exhibition including tamariki activities, curator tours, an R18 book club and life drawing class.

Discover the fantastic behind the plastic and the collector behind the dolls. Situated on Queens Wharf, Wellington Museum is free entry and open 10am – 5pm daily.

Come on Barbie, let’s go party!

Discover The Barbie Collector here.

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Photo credit: Yvonne Todd

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