The Barnum Museum, Bridgeport

The Barnum Museum

The Barnum Museum

Yesterday Lucy and I broke free from the library and made a pilgrimage to the P.T Barnum Museum in Bridgeport.  My interest in Barnum stems from the feejee mermaid that he exhibited at his American Museum in New York in 1842.  Ever the P.R whizz, Barnum released posters and stories to the press and created such a buzz around the mermaid that visitor figures to his museum tripled.

While we didn’t quite triple our visitor numbers when we had the Merman exhibition  at Buxton Museum, we did, like Barnum whip up quite a lot of publicity.

Alongside the mermaid, Buxton Museum holds the collections from ‘The House of Wonders’ Museum, a Barnum-esque attraction opened in 1926 by Randolph Douglas.  The collections includes models and miniature objects, a large collections of locks and keys and objects linked to Douglas’ friend Houdini.

Tom Thumb’s carriages

All the staff at P.T Barnum’s Museum were fantastic and took the time to show us around.  Highlights for me included seeing Tom Thumb’s clothing and carriages, Barnum’s rabbit skin top hat, and a dress belonging to Lavinia Warren, Tom Thumb’s wife.   What I found even more remarkable was the story of what the museum had faced over the last 3 years and the enthusiasm and dedication of the staff.   In 2010 the Museum was hit by a freak tornado which damaged the building and collections.  Since then it has suffered an earthquake, a hurricane and record snowfalls which have all put added pressure on the fabric of the already unstable building.

Open storage in the 'Recovery in Action' exhibition

Open storage in the ‘Recovery in Action’ exhibition

Due to all this the museum has been closed since 2010 but has just opened an exhibition ‘Recovery in Action’ which gives people an insight into the work that has been going on behind the scenes.  They have big redevelopment plans and are busy fundraising, you can find out more on their website.

The Museum has  also been continually collecting Barnum material and they’re currently trying to raise $1650 to buy an early Barnum letter.  You can find out more and donate here.

I’d like to say a huge thanks to Kathy and the staff for giving us such a memorable afternoon!

The poster girl for Buxton Museum

Oh.. and they have a reconstruction of Barnum’s mermaid ….. she’s hairy and scary and not a patch on ours!

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