Oak Brook showcases Princess Diana Accredited Access Exhibition

Exhibit offers unique experience, exceeds expectations

A crown paper sculpture designed by Pauline Loctin to honor Princess Diana (Fry/LION).

Morgan Fry, Editor in Chief

I have always admired Princess Diana. While she faced many challenges and difficulties in her life as a British royal, her kindness and heart left a lasting impression on the world that still lives on today. I was intrigued to hear that Oak Brook was hosting the “World’s First Ever Walk Through Documentary Experience” on Princess Diana. Since Los Angeles is the only other city offering this experience, I was excited to visit the Oakbrook Center site. 

Upon first arriving at the exhibit, I was greeted by a friendly staff member who explained that the experience was set up to honor Diana’s impact on the world and would take around 60-90 minutes to complete. He then supplied me with a smartphone and headphones that would act as my tour guide. The smartphone had a strap attached that he asked me to wear around my neck throughout the exhibit. 

When I entered the first room in the experience, I quickly familiarized myself with the process of navigating the tour. Various photographs of Diana and the royal family were displayed in different rooms in the museum, and each set of pictures had a number that corresponded to the ones listed on the smartphone. The numbers went in chronological order and had audio with subtitles that explained the backstory behind each photograph. 

Prior to stepping foot in the museum, I was a bit confused as to what the museum would feature. It is important to note that the physical displays were all photographs, with the exception of a few sculptures. The whole experience was narrated via the recorded audio clips through the point of view of Anwar Husssein, a photographer for the royal family. Hussein narrated the first and last photograph in the exhibit, while his sons, Samir and Zak Hussein, took turns speaking about the other pieces showcased throughout the tour.

Although not all of the photographs were in order of history, many of them did follow moments chronologically. Starting with photographs of Diana as a young teenager who started courting Prince Charles, viewers were able to see her transformation from adolescence to motherhood and into an independent, powerful role model for the world. 

The stories behind the pictures were seamlessly told. There were different themes and titles for sets of photos. My favorite was by far the picture set depicting the power of touch. These photos showcased Diana reaching out and comforting her children, the sick, and her acquaintances with a handshake, hug, or even just a simple hand hold. These intimate moments were beautifully displayed, and the stories behind them highlighted Diana’s true heart and character. It was especially heartwarming to hear that she insisted on embracing individuals with diseases that could potentially be dangerous to interact with. She always wanted to make sure others felt loved, even when she was struggling herself throughout her place in the royal family.

One photo depicted Diana sitting alone on a bench outside of India, in which Samir comments on how she was going through difficult times. However, the narration did not dive deep into her struggles with her marriage to Prince Charles or her battle with her eating disorder. Instead, the exhibit mainly highlighted her powerful moments such as the impacts of her fashion choices on society, as well as her admirable kindness, which I think was appropriate for the exhibit. 

Although the exhibit mainly presented photography, there was a small section in the museum with hats made entirely out of paper. The paper sculptures, designed by Pauline Loctin, represented Diana’s many famous hats. At first the sculptures felt a bit random; however, I do think they were a nice addition to the exhibit and added a unique element. The final sculpture was of a large crown that hung from the ceiling, which was very impressive and hard to believe it was crafted entirely out of paper. 

It’s also important to note that there were a good amount of photos that were not of Diana, but rather, other members of the royal family, including Prince William, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and Megan Markle. Thus, there were also photos and backstories behind photos from more recent events. It was interesting to hear how the photographers would wait outside of the hospital for days waiting to get a shot of a royal baby making their first appearance to the world. As a student journalist myself, hearing the work that went into capturing all of the photos really made me respect their professions and dedication to the royal family. 

My only complaint of the exhibit would be the crowd levels that I experienced on the Sunday afternoon I attended. At times it was a bit overwhelming with the large groups of people trying to view each photo at the same time. However, they were operating at full capacity when I attended, so I’d advise trying to go during the week or at an off-time on the weekend. 

Tickets can be purchased on the exhibit’s website or through the Fever app. I would definitely recommend getting your tickets well in advance if you plan to go on a weekend, since the time slots fill up quickly. The address was a bit confusing to find; however, once I figured out that the exhibit was located next to the Pottery Barn store in the central part of the mall, it was much easier to locate. 

The Princess Diana Exhibit Accredited Access Exhibition opened on Dec. 1 and runs through March 27. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are $25 for adults during the week and $32 on Saturday and Sunday. The exhibit is located at 19 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, IL. 

⅘ paws