Monday, December 16, 2013

Puppetry in America

Where: National Museum of American History

When: through March 26, 2014

This exhibit is in the display cases in middle of the first floor, just as you come in from Constitution Avenue.  There is a wide variety of things in the cases, lots of popular culture items - things that would attract the eye and lead you to wander further into the museum.  The cases themselves look rather dated; I think they're not the best venue for the items contained within them, but perhaps they are the best the museum has to offer at present.  We can only hope that a wealthy donor will visit and share my views - offering to replace them with nicer fixtures.

The small display of puppets is actually quite interesting, and I learned an enormous amount in a very short period of time.  I had no idea shadow puppets were originally from Asia, or that hand puppets have been around since the stone age.  I didn't realize the word marionette was French and referred to the Virgin Mary, one of the earliest figures to be used in morality plays.  I learned that the only puppet factory in the United States, one of the largest in the world, was founded by Hazelle Hedges Rollins.

In addition to all of this education, I also got to see some great puppets.  Not only did they have a Punch and Judy from the late 19th century, they also had some modern-day figures on display.  Persons a bit older than myself will probably be drawn to the Howdy Doody, the Charlie McCarthy or the original Jim Henson muppets (pictured above).  I was thrilled to see Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit, from Captain Kangaroo.  All they needed was some ping pong balls!

Verdict: Give this a look whether you're in the museum for another show, holiday shopping at the Museum Store, or if, like me, you haven't been to American History for a while.

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