Posted by: Kath Usitalo | January 31, 2011

An Exhibit To Di For

Visitors inspect Diana's frothy wedding gown and bridesmaid's dress

More than a dozen years after her death Princess Diana continues to fascinate and finagle 20 bucks from thousands of fans who line up for a look at pieces of a life lived under a magnifying glass.

Diana: A Celebration is a traveling exhibition that has held court at the Grand Rapids Art Museum since November, and four of us—my sister Karen, sister-in-law Mary Lou, darling daughter Paige and yours truly—made a girlz day trip to catch the show before it departs February 16.

Although I was one of the billions who watched her 1981 wedding and 1997 funeral, the late Lady Di has never had much of a presence in our home. Until yesterday Paige’s knowledge of Diana Spencer and the House of Windsor was fairly limited to the upcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Limited tickets remain for the Diana exhibition, which closes February 16

But we were curious to see the exhibition, which has been touring the world since 2003 from Althorp Estate, the Spencer family’s home and Diana’s resting place.

Profits from the show benefit charities and philanthropic work the Princess of Wales was known for, and which are the focus of one of nine galleries displaying 150 objects related to Diana.

The touring personal effects range from family jewels to girlhood stuffed animals, Diana’s portable typewriter, plus dance shoes, a school uniform, and home movies shot by her father (love the clips of a dancing Diana).

With her fairy tale gown as centerpiece, one gallery is devoted to the July 1981 wedding to Charles, HRH The Prince of Wales. What caught my eye: photos, shot by an undoubtedly proud father, of London shop windows and buildings festooned with Charles and Diana decor in anticipation of the Royal Wedding. I could just imagine the Earl of Spencer roaming the streets with his camera, snapping pictures and then arranging them in the little red album.

Elton John adapted his Marilyn Monroe tribute tune "Candle in the Wind" to honor Diana, dubbed "England's Rose"

In the room that addresses Diana’s “premature death” in a car accident in August 1997 Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” memorial song plays on constant loop, and I caught more than one visitor dabbing her eyes as she watched the video coverage of the funeral and read the eulogy delivered by her brother.

The most photographed woman in the world was very aware of the scrutiny her wardrobe received, and said of her love of clothes; “they were a passion and a public duty.”

On stunning display are more than two dozen of her outfits, from a young bride’s evening gown to Official Princess Duty Suits and sophisticated evening gowns from the last year of life.

Overall we were pleased with our time spent with the “People’s Princess,” though we all commented on the limited coverage of her beloved sons William and Harry. We’ll undoubtedly have our fill of the lads in the coming months and years.

NOTE: Limited tickets remain for the duration of Diana: A Celebration in Grand Rapids. Tickets are $15 for youths 6-17, $18 for seniors and students; $20 for adults. We recommend the audio tour, which is an additional $5.

Find Royal Rewards hotel packages that include tickets to the exhibition.

I didn’t realize it while we were in town so we didn’t check it out, but you can see a replica of Diana’s Royal Wedding cake in the historic Pantlind lobby of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and sample it at restaurants in the hotel, located just across the street from the Art Museum.

After the exhibition wraps in Michigan it moves to Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri (March 4-June 12, 2011).

Visitor Info Click: Experience Grand Rapids

Pure Michigan

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