The date Aug. 31, 1997 may not trigger your memory quite like Nov. 22, 1963 or Sept. 11, 2001.
But if you think back to a time when British royalty ruled the public eye, you might recall a veil of mourning covering the earth that day, with the untimely passing of “The People’s Princess.”
Now, 15 years since Diana Spencer’s death at the age of 36, the Princess of Wales continues to captivate audiences, who look to her as a glorified example of grace and compassion.
In 2004, the world gained a greater glimpse into Diana’s enthralling public and private life with the award-winning traveling exhibition, “Diana: A Celebration.” Organized by Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI) in association with the Althorp Estate – the Spencer family’s 500-year-old ancestral home – the exhibit will make its latest stop inside the Frazier History Museum on Sept. 15, after visiting such places as Toronto, Budapest, and, most recently, Mall of America.
“The objects (of the exhibit) themselves were organized or put together by Charles, (Diana’s) brother, and the rest of the family,” said John Norman, president of AEI. “Every summer the (Althorp Estate) is open to the public for two months, and they put these objects together to have an exhibition. The rest of the year they won’t do anything with it, and the idea was to take those objects and create a touring exhibit.”
The 7,500 square foot exhibition examines the lifespan of one of the most photographed women in history. Explored through nine galleries, you’ll witness Diana’s many roles, from young school girl to reserved kindergarten teacher, mother of two, advocate and stunning bride fit for a king. Galleries will feature 150 personal pieces, such as rare home videos, childhood photos, 28 of Diana’s designer dresses and her iconic diamond tiara, veil and illustrious wedding gown, with its 25-foot-long train, worn the day she married Charles, Prince of Wales.
“(It’s) probably the world’s most famous wedding dress,” said Director of PR and Marketing at The Frazier History Museum, Krista Snider. “People will be able to get pretty close to it. We’ve all seen the wedding … and I don’t think you can really appreciate the detail and the craftsmanship of the dress on TV (like you can in person).”
While celebrating her life, the exhibit also captures the melancholic air of Aug. 31, 1997 and its subsequent consequences, through an original text of the Earl Spencer’s emotional tribute to his sister at her Westminster Abbey funeral and the score and lyrics of “Candle in the Wind 1997” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
Books of condolence and space for reflection and remembrance also allow exhibit attendees to pay homage to the princess and appreciate her lasting significance.
“We have a condolence book at the end of the exhibition and people can write what they thought of (the exhibit),” said Norman. “And it’s interesting to read what people say … some people are fascinated with her childhood … and then some people are fascinated with the fashion. … You have the first dress she wore when she was 19 at a dinner with Charles, and then you’ve got the last dress that she wore a month before she died in the car. So it’s very interesting to see the transition she made in her lifetime.”
The renowned “Diana: A Celebration” has averaged 100,000 visitors at previous venues, and is anticipated to bring in a Louisville crowd of fans, young and old, along with a new generation just learning of the royal legend. The exhibit will also help further the Frazier Museum’s effort to make fundamental changes to its vision, in order to become a more comprehensive history museum.
“I think people are starting to get the idea that the Frazier Museum has changed and broadened its mission,” said Snider. “We’re a history museum and Diana is a historical figure … Someone who really changed the way we see the royal family and the way we interact with people who have AIDS . … This is someone who really left a legacy behind; she wasn’t just a pretty face.”
“Diana: A Celebration” will run through Jan. 13, 2013 at The Frazier Museum, 829 W. Main St. Admission, which is optional, and Frazier Museum permanent gallery access is $21.50 for adults (ages 15 to 59); $19.50 for seniors (60 and up) and $10 for children (4-14); children 3 and under are free. Online and phone service fees will apply. Special rates for museum members, who receive early ticket access, and group rates are available.
For information on “Diana” group packages with the Galt House, call 502.753.5663. Museum hours will be Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Wednesday until 8 p.m.
‘A Royal Evening Honoring Diana’
Receive an exclusive preview of “Diana: A Celebration” inside the Frazier Museum at “A Royal Evening Honoring Diana,” Friday, Sept. 14. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., you’ll savor a three-course, plated dinner (vegetarian option available), an open bar, decadent dessert and a trio of live musical performances within a posh, contemporary atmosphere styled exclusively by Bittners LLC. Cost is $300. To purchase tickets, call 502.753.5670 or visit www.fraziermuseum.org.
‘Knight for a Princess’
Party in royal fashion on Sept. 15 at “KNight for a Princess,” featuring DJ Prism and Syimone. One free drink and appetizers are included with admission. Among the activities planned for the evening are sword fighting demonstrations, a Royal/British-themed costume contest with cash prize and entrance into “Diana: A Celebration.” Tickets are $50 for members; $60 for non-members for this 21 and older event. A portion of proceeds will benefit House of Ruth, a nonprofit community-based organization caring for families and individuals with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Purchase tickets at www.fraziermuseum.org or call 502.753.5663.
For more upcoming events related to the exhibition, visit www.fraziermuseum.org.
For more information on “Diana: A Celebration,” visit www.dianaexhibition.com. For tickets, call 888.71.842.5387.
All object images are courtesy of Althorp Estate.
All gallery images are courtesy of Arts and Exhibitions International.