Monday, December 16, 2013
Puppetry in America
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.