Places to Visit »Barnum Museum

Barnum MuseumI never thought I'd take the exit to Bridgeport in my life. Ever since seeing the condemned new developments from the train window (so creepy) and the fight club house from the highway, and hearing bad news out of the city, I had decided, to the city board's consternation, that it was a shithole town and one I never needed to go to.

It was not always this way. According to the second floor of this unfortunately poorly laid out and hard to follow museum (fortunately it is full of engrossing material), Bridgeport used to be a seat of high society, including one PT Barnum who had a huge impact on the city both financially and socially. He even served a term as mayor.

But there is much more interesting stuff here than just Barnum's association with the town. The photographs are insightful but too few, and the flyers for the shows are the most amazing pieces from the entire museum. It makes you wish there were even more records and bits of information on the Barnum entertainments.

What exactly took place during a NERO: Fall of the Roman Empire show? The pamphlet sparked my imagination and I wish there was still some sort of equivalent in today's entertainment world.

Suicide Girls doing burlesque at a bar doesn't cut it; but aside from them, the art of vaudeville and spectacle theater is dead. Also worth checking out at this sometimes free, otherwise only five dollar museum is the real mummy (recently confirmed by scientists) and the Hopalong Cassidy miniature circus on the top floor. My love for dioramas, miniatures, and animatronics is well noted, so this display made me very happy.

I only wish the curators cared as much about the museum experience as those attending. Information plaques were always at uncomfortable heights to view, much of it is poorly lit and it leaves you wanting clearer information about this fascinating man.

Still, it got me into Bridgeport, which was clean and fine, and the content is truly fascinating.

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Posted on April 9, 2007

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