Connecticut has got quite a few odd places to visit, but one of the most surreal has got to be the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. Full of puppets of all kinds from all over the world, the museum is definitely a strange one: Filling visitors with fear, wonder, nostalgia (or a combination of all three).
Place of Wonder
Puppets are an age-old art that has captured humanity’s imagination for much of recorded history. The Ballard Museum and Institute of Puppetry has gathered together an immense collection of these puppets from around the world in an attempt to understand and preserve that legacy, while also opening them up to the public.
The museum regularly displays a number of puppetry exhibits that visitors can view free of charge. These exhibits are swapped out from time to time to showcase other collections, allowing for a great variety; chances are, you won’t see the same collection of puppets twice every time you go.
In addition to running the exhibits, the museum also produces a number of puppet shows each season. These shows are conducted by the puppetry students as a part of their studies and by visiting puppet shows, and make use of many techniques and types of puppets—something that is sure to amaze children and adults alike. You can see the current list of shows here.
About the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is a public museum of puppetry that is run by the University of Connecticut. The museum is home to one of the three largest puppetry collections in the country, containing more than 2,500 puppets from all over the world.
The collection includes marionettes, glove puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets, body puppets, stage materials, books, manuscripts, posters, drawings, audio-visual materials, and photographs, all covering the history of puppetry. It is also home to the Puppeteers of America’s Audio-Visual Collection, which is the largest media collection on puppetry in the US.
The Ballard Institute produces exhibitions of puppetry, both at the Ballard Museum and for across the US by touring throughout the states. Not only does it provide exhibits, but the Institute also offers workshops, museum tours, artists’ forums, film showings, performances, and other events and programs that promote the art of puppetry as it is now in this century as an art form that has a history worldwide.
You may be wondering though: Why is UConn so into puppets? Well here’s a fun fact: UConn is the only college or university in the country that offers a master’s degree in puppetry, with classes first taught in 1964
To promote puppetry as a form of art and help it gain public recognition in many more places. Let’s face it: Most people think of puppetry as a dying artform, but the Ballard Museum aims to bring it back to life. They plan to continue expanding their collection and continue keeping records with hopes that the heritage and tradition will, nonetheless, be protected and maintained.
If You Want to Go
The Ballard Museum used to be located on UConn’s Storrs Campus, but was recently moved, in 2014, to the newly renovated Storrs Center. The address is 1 Royce Circle, Storrs. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11am to 7pm. Admission to the museum is free, but you will need to purchase a ticket if you decide you want to see any of the shows.