Visiting museums in Connecticut can be great fun thanks to the vast array of historical collections, art galleries and noble edifices across the Nutmeg State. Three on the list for my husband, daughter and me were the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, and the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford.
A stroll from Bridgeport’s Metro North rail station and the Port Jefferson Ferry, The Barnum Museum was founded in 1891 as The Barnum Institute of Science and History. Usually the ornate structure boasts a huge stash of art and artifacts pertaining to Bridgeport’s most celebrated son, the outrageous impresario and circus showman P. T. Barnum. The museum building was closed by 2010 tornado damage, but that has not stopped it from exhibiting its peculiar treasures – the show must go on! Out loaded oddities from the 25,000 that found emergency storage are shown two days a week -- free -- at the back of the Barnum in the People’s United Bank Gallery. While the museum undergoes restoration and conservation. the exhibition “Recovery in Action” shows its wares in their “disaster mode,” including the Baroque furnishings from Barnum’s home, the midget Tom Thumb’s 1865 miniature carriage, Ulysses S. Grant’s personal items, and ephemera about the Swedish protégée of Barnum’s, singer Jenny Lind. It may not be the Greatest Show on Earth, but it possesses a fiery chutzpah in showing off some wonderful stuff against all odds.
There is also the worthy “virtual” Barnum Museum that offers on-line exhibitions such as “Heroes of the Home Front” in honor of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and the main exhibits, “Phineas Taylor Barnum,” “Humbugs and Curiosities,” “Jumbo the Elephant,” and “Egyptian Exhibit: Pa-Ib”. A wide range of lectures and seminars swirl around the Barnum, including “Mummy Dearest,” looking into past peoples’ lives.
The Barnum Museum, 820 Main Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Hours 11-3 Thursday and Friday