• Robyn

Hospital de Bonecas

Updated: May 11, 2018

On a recent trip to Portugal, I had the pleasure of visiting "Hospital de Bonecas", the hospital for dolls, in Lisbon. I had first heard about this wonderful, if slightly creepy place from watching it on Richard Ayoade's Travel Man on Channel 4, which successfully convinced me it was one of Lisbon's must see attractions.

Hospital de Bonecas has been in the same location, in the same family since 1830. This is evident upon entering, in the layers and memorabilia and mountains of doll parts in every corner of the deceptively huge building. Although it has become a tourist attraction for weirdos like me with an interest in the macabre, it is still a working "hospital" for dolls, figurines and other ceramic items.

The hospital waiting room: a queue of one-handed Jesus's, works in progress and a super old doll made of papier-mâché.

We are guided through the workshop, into a room of full of categorised spare parts, including miniature wigs (which I found particularly fascinating).

After the workshop tour, we enter the museum. The curtains are drawn, which I presume is for extra creepiness (it's actually to protect the dolls from sunlight) so the photos aren't the best.

Notable dolls: mechanical wind-up metal skeleton terminator dolls, racist maid/performer dolls, seemingly six foot tall porcelain dolls, overweight middle-aged women dolls, papier-mâché dolls that you can actually read the newspaper print from the 1950s doll, and of course, bed full of dolls.

There was also a splendid collection of "modern" dolls, including a (replica) first edition Barbie and what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan action man (I'm informed this is actually a 'baddie' character from a traditional Portuguese folk story) and a room full of, in contrast, garish plastic dolls from the 60s onwards. These plastic creations will most likely never need any kind of restoration hospital, as unfortunately, they will last forever, floating around the ocean in 200 years time, eyelashes still intact long after their once infant owner has biodegraded.

Seeing the painstaking attention that is put into restoring these beautiful (and sometimes creepy) family heirlooms that have been played with for generations, is a stark reminder that our current throw-away culture is damaging in every sense. I can't imagine myself handing down a hunk of 1980s beige plastic to my future child, where as a porcelain doll (however creepy) is something to be treasured. Perhaps eco-friendly porcelain dolls will be the next green trend. I mean, you must be able to make them a little less creepy?

You can find out more about Hospital de Bonecas here http://www.hospitaldebonecas.com


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