BLOOMINGTON, Minn. May 31, 2012 — Diana, Princess of Wales, wanted to be remembered as a workhorse, not a clotheshorse, according to her brother Charles Spencer. Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997 and buried six days later. Now insights and artifacts of her life and death from the Spencer family can be found at Diana: A Celebration exhibit in Minneapolis, Minn. and moving to Kentucky for the fall.
What better way to help Queen Elizabeth kick off her Diamond Jubilee celebration this weekend than by visiting everybody’s favorite Royal, the Princess Diana’s exhibit of dresses and diamonds.
What’s in store for the visitor? Located at the Mall of America, it is advertised as “An award-winning exhibition celebrating the life and work of Diana, Princess of Wales. Direct from England, experience nine galleries with over 150 objects including Diana’s royal wedding gown, 28 designer dresses, family heirlooms, personal mementos, priceless jewels and rare home movies.”
Nine friends and I traveled to see the highly touted exhibit and unanimously we recommend it to others. Each of us was reminded of our memories of Diana while getting rare glimpses into her life. Nine rooms hold treasures to be self-explored at your leisure as you make your way through the exhibit.
As a young child Diana liked to swim, dance, and read. Her father liked photography and the exhibit showcases his films of young Diana. Report cards with grades penciled in and comments look much like many of us remember from our elementary schools. She was better at some subjects than others and was told to “keep up the good work.” Books, luggage, toys and other memorabilia are also on display.
Elegant jewels behind glass boxes glitter, signifying the princess status of Diana. Video footage of her wedding streams continuously. Signage gives a snapshot of the many people and events of her life.
At least half of our group said their favorite part of the exhibit was either the wedding gown or the 28 designer dresses. Her wedding dress is encased in a huge glass case and is the signature item for one room. The train is long enough to start at one end of the room and go to the other. In another room, large photographs stand behind her dresses on mannequins, each labeled with the occasion when the dress was worn.
Another participant liked the room of remembrances – letters and children’s artwork primarily – that was collected after her death. This includes a full library wall of bound books of letters to Diana. After hearing word of her death schools, communities, and other groups poured out their emotions. These were given to the Spencer family and now shared with the world.
My favorite part of the exhibit was the frank eulogy written and delivered by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer. Some of his quotes that connected with me include:
“You stand tall enough as a human being of unique qualities not to need to be seen as a saint. Indeed, to sanctify your memory would be to miss out on the very core of your being, your wonderfully mischievous sense of humor with a laugh that bent you double.”
“Your joy for life transmitted wherever you took your smile and the sparkle in those unforgettable eyes.”
“For all the status, the glamour, the applause, Diana remained throughout a very insecure person at heart, almost childlike in her desire to do good for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of unworthiness of which her eating disorders were merely a symptom.“
“The world sensed this part of her character and cherished her for her vulnerability whilst admiring her for her honesty.”
“Without your God-given sensitivity, we would be immersed in greater ignorance at the anguish of AIDS and HIV sufferers, the plight of the homeless, the isolation of lepers, and the random destruction of land mines.
Diana explained to me once that it was her innermost feelings of suffering that made it possible for her to connect with her constituency of the rejected.”
Whatever your memories of Diana, a visit to the exhibit will renew them. And it is just pure fun to see her gowns and point out your favorites with your friends.
Upcoming exhibits include:
Mall of America, Bloomington, Minn. – Now through June 10, 2012
Louisville, Ky. – Sept 15, 2012 to January 13, 2013
Read more from Donna Rae Scheffert at Washington Times Communities and Online Leadership Tools. Donna Rae is an award winning writer, consultant, planner, facilitator, and coach. One Minnesota organization gave her a coveted ‘Futures’ award. Another named her the 2002 Outstanding Faculty member. She has co-authored five books and numerous articles. She is the founder of the consulting firm Leadership Tools.
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