Rendering courtesy of the Center for Puppetry Arts
Kermit and friends are coming to the Center for Puppetry Arts this fall. In 2007, Jim Henson’s family announced they were donating more than 500 pieces to the museum. To fit all the frogs and Fraggles, the center is building an expansion set to open on November 14. We took a tour of the grounds this week and learned a few surprising things about the Muppets and the Muppety Man’s exhibition.
1. The museum is split into two: the Jim Henson Collection and the Global Collection. Henson’s half is organized chronologically with nine or so rooms showing his career from commercials to Dog City. When you enter, you’ll be greeted by his two first puppets: Omar from Sam and Friends and Rowlf the Dog. Yes, before he played piano, the mutt was one of Henson’s originals for commercial work.
2. Henson’s family didn’t just donate Miss Piggy. They were involved in all design meetings, which helped to create the personal feel of the exhibit. A room designed to look like Henson’s office has a paper mache moose head he used to hang on his wall. But their best contribution is the creature shop, where visitors can touch fabric swatches and pull out drawers full of Muppet noses and eyes to understand how Henson innovated puppetry.
3. Although there’s plenty of kid-friendly activities, from a Sesame Street reading nook to a TV studio space where kids can play muppeteer, the exhibition doesn’t forget Henson’s adult work. There’s a room just devoted to The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. You won’t find David Bowie there, but expect Jen and Didymus, among others.
4. The Global Collection takes you on an Epcot-style tour of the world’s puppets, from Europe’s Punch and Judy dolls to Vietnamese water puppetry. Asia takes up half of the space, but new countries are joining. The center recently acquired South Korean and Egyptian puppets to add to their collection of more than 3,000. Kids can go behind the scenes here, too, with interactive marionettes and shadow puppets.
5. Even though the $14 million dollar expansion is 7,500 square feet of museum space, the Henson exhibit will only display 75 Muppets at a time, while the global section will show around 200. That means puppets will rotate every year, so you can see all of Kermit’s hues.
6. The museum isn’t the only update. The entryway is getting a facelift, the museum store is expanding, and the center is adding a research library. Despite the massive renovation, you can still see shows at the theater. Catch Click, Clack, Moo until July 26.