Photos: The power of Robin Hickman's Barbie collection

Arts & Culture Nikki Tundel Nikki Tundel · ·

1 Robin Hickman has been collecting multicultural dolls for 20 years. Her Barbies represent places from Nigeria to Brazil. 
2 Robin Hickman admires her 12-inch look-alike in her St. Paul, Minn., office on Oct. 5, 2012. Hickman has more than 300 multicultural dolls in her collection. 
3 "I often tell the young girls that I work with that I'm pushing 50 years old and I still play with dolls. You can do it at 12. There's no shame," says Robin Hickman, whose prized collection includes more than 300 dolls. 
4 The term Barbie usually conjures up images of blue eyes and blond hair. But Robin Hickman's collection shows just how diverse the dolls can be. 
5 Robin Hickman not only collects dolls, she makes them clothes, furniture, even tiny books. "I studied the history of millinery," said Hickman, a€œso I could learn how to make hats for my dolls." 
6 On October 5, 2012, Robin Hickman matched her doll's outfit to her own. Both sported classic Afro puffs hairstyles. 
7 Robin Hickman's St. Paul, Minn., office is full of dolls. "When I was a little girl, my sister and I got a doll a year. And we'd try to snatch our brother's G.I. Joe figures to complete the doll family," shared Hickman. "I would say, 'When I grow up, I can have all the dolls I want.'" Today Hickman has more than 300. 
8 Robin Hickman brings part of her multicultural doll collection to a female-focused English class at Battle Creek Middle School in St. Paul, Minn., on October 10. 2012. Before taking this course, many of the students had never seen Asian or black dolls. 
9 Female students at Battle Creek Middle School in St. Paul, Minn., admire multicultural Barbies from Robin Hickman's collection on October 10, 2012. Hickman uses the dolls to prompt discussions on race, identity and society's standards of beauty. 
10 Robin Hickman shows the class her mint-condition Diana Ross doll on October 10, 2012. "Seeing images of beauty that look like you, that have the same skin color as you, be it positive portrayals on television or in doll form, that's important for girls," says Hickman. 
11 An eighth-grade student holds a doll during a class discussion on race and beauty at Battle Creek Middle School in St. Paul, Minn., on October 10, 2012. "When we use dolls in class," says Robin Hickman, "it brings out the innocence of the girls right away." 
12 In addition to collecting dolls, Robin Hickman creates realistic "sets" and photographs the dolls in these handmade scenes. This set was inspired by the family room in her late mother's home and was the first scene Hickman created after her mother passed away. 
13 Here, says Robin Hickman, "TiTi, Brian and Debra are jammin' at Gordon's SoulMusic Cafe." Hickman likes to create intricate, realistic sets on which to pose her dolls.