If you do not have an ethnic doll at home, check a local museum or ask your friends, especially those who travel a lot. You can often find ethnic dolls on display in museums, galleries, souvenir shops, specialized stores, and even flea markets.
Choose the doll you are going to study. You can pick more than one and study each of them. However, you will need to fill out a separate Report Form for each doll under investigation.
Follow the guidelines below as you gather information about the doll you are going to describe:
- What region or culture does the doll represent?
- Was your doll mass-produced or is it a unique, one of a kind creation? Handcrafted dolls are usually signed or marked by their creator. If you choose to describe a doll that is in the museum, it is highly likely it is a handcrafted work of art. If you bought your doll from the store and saw a few more of the same, then it was most likely mass-produced.
- What is the doll made of?
- Why was it made in a particular style?
- What is the significance of each part of the doll’s outfit?
- Why were the particular materials, colors, etc. chosen to make the doll?
- What historic figure(s) is it related to, if any?
- Is the doll in any way related to traditional beliefs, rituals, or ceremonies? If yes, try to find out what they are.
- Try to discover and understand what exactly the doll symbolizes and how it is connected to your geographical region.
You might find the answers to the questions above in reference books, catalogues, or specialized manuals or collector handbooks.
Visit your local historic societies and arts and crafts galleries. The professionals who work there often possess specialized knowledge about items being studied. You could also try research on the Internet or even direct your inquiry to the actual producers and craftsmen themselves: if the doll was hand-crafted, it would be very helpful to connect with its creator. These craftsmen might share some very valuable information with you.
Take a picture of the doll you are studying. Note: If the doll is either hand-made or a museum item, please remember to get permission before you photograph it. A craftsman or a museum curator may have special procedures for copyright protection they want you to follow. You should identify all such facts in your Report Form.
Add captions to your photo. Annotate: a) Elements of the traditional costume (dress, hat, jewelry, shoes, etc.) and their meaning or purpose. b) If the doll depicts a historical or literary character, specify who. c) Any additional information you wish to share with other project participants can be included in the caption of your photo. If applicable, cite the creator, doll museum, or collection to which it belongs.
Fill out your Report Form. In Question #1, move the marker on the map from your location to the region the doll represents.
Always ask the owner’s permission before photographing a doll. Occasionally, for a variety of reasons, owners are unwilling to allow their possessions to be photographed. It may help to explain the reasons you want to take the picture. This same procedure should be followed when dealing with dolls in museums and galleries.