From 1967 until 1987, Barbie was made in Taishan by Mattel, at a factory employing 1200 people. It was this “Made in Taiwan” period that led to the rapid growth in Taiwan, but very little is left. The factory has now completely gone, and the only reminder of the heady days of doll production is the Taishan Doll Museum.
There is actually a model of the old museum which was presented to the local government in recognition of their hard work. Followed by demolition of the factory. But they was hard times.
Established in 2004, the museum displays anywhere from 300 to 500 dolls at any one time, and they rotate the display periodically. Most of the dolls are Barbie, but there are some from other manufacturers and some examples of locally made and themed dolls, from Hakka to aboriginal.
If you are a big fan of Barbie, then I think a trip to see where it all started is worthwhile. They do have some of the original dolls including the “first ever doll made”, which I assume means the first design rather than the actual first ever doll made. And the dolls are displayed very well in brightly lit display cases. This is more for collectors though than children (very much hands off).
Having said that this is for collectors, a substantial part of the display is dedicated to clothes made by people in the local community, and so are unique designs. The amount of detail of most of these designs is quite fabulous, and this may be another reason to visit. If you are interested in getting involved in making clothes you can do so, but you will need to get in touch with them in advance.
Only a few of the exhibits have English descriptions, and although we had a guided tour, it was also in Chinese only. It is free to get in, but no photos are allowed and you will need to wear the provided slippers. The museum is closed on Mondays, and is open from 11am to 3:30pm from Tuesday to Sunday (as of March 2014, and the times are different from those reported elsewhere including the official site – see below).
The best way to get there is to take the MRT to the Fu Jen University station (or Fu Da) on the Xinzhuang line, and then taking a taxi from there (around NT$150). The address is 4F, No. 26, Lane 26 Fengjiang Road, Taishan District, New Taipei (新北市泰山區楓江路26巷26號4樓), and they also have an official website (Chinese only). It is not in a remote location so you will easily be able to get a taxi from the main road back to the MRT station.