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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Published November 22 2011

Princess Diana exhibition, including royal wedding dress, coming to Mall of America

MINNEAPOLIS — Diana's royal wedding gown is among the dozens of items in a large exhibit covering the princess’ very public life that will open in February at the Mall of America.

“Diana: A Celebration” will run from Feb. 4 through June 10 and include her gown from her fairy-tale wedding in 1981 to Prince Charles and 28 of her designer dresses, family heirlooms, personal mementos, items connected to her extensive charity work, paintings and rare home movies and photos.

The 150 objects, which will be displayed in nine galleries on Level 4 of the mall, will be on loan from Althorp Estate, the Spencer family's 500-year-old ancestral home in England.

Also in the exhibition are the original text of the Earl Spencer's moving tribute to his sister at her 1997 funeral in Westminster Abbey and books of condolences left by people throughout the world.

All profits generated from “Diana: A Celebration” at Althorp Estate and overseas go to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. Since 1998, the exhibition has generated more than $2 million for charities supported by the memorial fund and has been visited by more than 1 million people, though it is open there for only two months out of the year.

John Norman, whose Arts & Exhibitions International is producing “Diana: A Celebration,” said Tuesday that the Mall of America is an attractive location because “it's always been our goal to have the exhibition in places that have a large amount of traffic so we can expose this to as many people as possible.”

In particular, the AEI president said, “the demographic of people who visit the Mall of America, being primarily women, layer with the demographic of the Diana exhibition.”

In other cities, “we typically see a mother and a daughter, or sometimes the grandmother, the daughter and the granddaughter,” said Norman, whose Ohio-based company also brought the King Tut artifacts to St. Paul, Minn., last year.

Responding to an initial contact by Mall of America officials about bringing the exhibition to the Twin Cities, Norman scouted out the location twice and called it “a really a wonderful space,” with tall ceilings and more than 10,000 square feet available.

During its run this year in Kansas City, Mo., from March 4 to June 12, attendance topped 105,000. Norman said there could be times on weekends at the mall “when there might be lines to get in.”

When the exhibition made a stop in Atlanta early last year, Jamie Gumbrecht of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote, "People who love Diana will love this exhibition, but it does not put her life, work and legacy into context of the rest of the world. It hardly mentions her divorce from Prince Charles. ... There's little detail offered about the 1997 car accident, but extensive exhibits dedicated to her funeral, and the outpouring of sympathy after her death.

“Still, there are blockbuster moments,” Gumbrecht continued, “tops among them a well-placed turn into a gallery dominated by her wedding dress. It's encased in glass, but visitors can see every detail of the gown, plus accessories like her shoes, a parasol and bridesmaid's dress.”

A gift package will be available at any Mall of America guest service desk starting Friday until Dec. 24 for $75. It includes two exhibit tickets, two audio tours and one “Diana: A Celebration” catalog. Information about single tickets and group sales will be released soon, the mall said.

The exhibition is currently at the Foxwoods Resort Casino through Jan. 15 in Connecticut, where admission is $25, $20 for seniors and $16 for children 11 and under. This casino is its 13th stop since late 2003.