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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release January 15, 2010

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

Historical Museum welcomes “Dolls of Japan” exhibit in February

Traveling exhibit honors Iowa and Yamanashi’s 50th anniversary as Sister States

(DES MOINES) – A traveling exhibit showcasing 70 dolls from Japan opens next month at the State Historical Museum in honor of the 50th anniversary of Iowa and Yamanashi, Japan, as Sister States.

“The Dolls of Japan: Shapes of Prayer, Embodiments of Love” opens Feb. 2-March 31, 2010, at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Admission is free and open to the public.

Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday. Call 515-281-5111 or visit www.iowahistory.org for more information. The exhibit is sponsored by The Japan Foundation.

“Dolls have played a primary role in Japanese culture since ancient times, and this exhibit offers a look at their tradition and involvement in the modern life of Japanese people,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said. “I would like to thank the Consul General’s Office and The Japan Foundation for making this exhibit possible for Iowans to enjoy.”

In addition to Iowa, the exhibit has been on display in Nevada, Washington and Guam, and in Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Korea, Morocco, Peru, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The history of dolls is long, with the oldest known doll in the world dating back nearly 24,000 years. The origin of Japanese dolls is also extremely old, beginning in the Jomon period about 3,000 BC.

But it is only since the Edo period (1603-1868) that dolls have taken on a wide variety of forms and purposes, and many different types have been produced – as the embodiment of spirits to be worshipped, as objects endowed with magical powers, as playthings in human form, or simply for the purpose of display and appreciation.

No single country, however, has a greater variety of dolls than Japan, which cherishes its unique doll-making traditions to this day.

Japanese dolls reflect the customs of Japan and the aspirations of its people, possess distinctive regional attributes, and over the centuries have developed in many diverse forms. Dolls also provide a showcase for traditional Japanese craft products, such as textiles.

In “The Dolls of Japan,” dolls are grouped according to particular events in the Japanese calendar, their method of manufacture, their design and regional characteristics.

Included are Japan’s representative dolls, including Hina ningyo (Girls’ Festival dolls) and Gogatsu ningyo (Boys’ Day dolls), which have their origins in ancient customs; dolls connected to traditional performing arts like noh, bunraku and kabuki; regional dolls from throughout the country; and “creative dolls” produced by contemporary craftspeople.


The Japan Foundation engages in international cultural exchange activities in cooperation with over 130 countries around the world, focusing on three major program areas- the Arts and Cultural Exchange, Japanese-Language Education Overseas, and Japanese studies and intellectual exchange. In order to enhance the understanding of Japanese arts and culture through the visual arts, the Foundation collaborates with overseas museums on a wide range of exhibitions from traditional to contemporary arts. The Foundation also organizes traveling exhibits of paintings, ceramics, crafts, prints, and photographs that make their way around the world.

The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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