The Norton Museum of Art is a West Palm Beach treasure. From the jaw-dropping collection of paintings to the After Dark series on Thursdays, the museum knows how to stay fresh and keep the crowds coming in. They have really outdone themselves with their newest exhibit, Wheels and Heels.
Wheels and Heels is centered around two of the world's most famous lines of toys: Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars. The exhibit, which spans more than three full-sized rooms, starts out by exploring the origins of each.
"Wheels and Heels" showcases the life history of Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars — Photo courtesy of Norton Museum of Art
With Barbie, patrons will be in awe at how different the times used to be. A Barbie board game was manufactured back in the day, where the goal was to get a "promise ring" from a boyfriend. Barbie accessories used to include weight-loss manuals and a scale locked in at 110 pounds.
Over on the Matchbox side, one can really get a glimpse at just how much work and thought went into the creation of each miniature vehicle. The Matchbox people were really creative with using molds, and it was in altering these molds and limiting production on certain cars that they turned a toy into a collectible.
As you progress from one end of the exhibit to the other, you can see the progression of each toy, which in Barbie's case, closely mimics cultural progression. Barbie goes from a girl destined to be a homemaker and mother to one who can travel the cosmos, explore the amazon or sail the seven seas. There even is a section where you can see when Mattel decided it was time to make "Black Barbie."
Watch Barbie undergo serious transformations over her 50+ years — Photo courtesy of Freddycat1
The Matchbox side shows more technological progression. The cars went from strictly rolling vehicles to ones with hydraulic lifts, levers and cranks for extra speed. Elaborate tracks were designed so kids could race their cars against friends. Even with all the new gizmos and gadgets, it's the old BP Service Stations and double-decker buses that really make guests feel nostalgic.
The interactive portion is two-fold. The first part features a runway and media screen, where visitors can strike a pose while strutting down the carpet a la Barbie. The second is a full blown fun room. On one side, kids can play with crates and crates of Matchbox cars and tracks. On the other is a drawing and coloring area, where people can sketch out Barbie designs and even color in a large Barbie picture on the museum's wall with crayon.
For museums to get people to come back again and again, they can't rely just on the ancient Chinese pottery and cherub-filled biblical works. They need to stay ever-evolving and fresh. It's exhibits like Wheels and Heels that keep the Norton Museum of Art as one of Palm Beach's best attractions.
The Wheels and Heels exhibit runs through Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. For more information, visit the Norton Museum of Art website.