The Suitcase Lady


August 15, 2017, 11:10 pm

My list of museums to visit just got two new additions; the new Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta and the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens.

I visited the Atlanta museum when it was in its old building. My husband and I were driving in downtown Atlanta and serendipitously spotted a sign for it. The museum was housed in an old, musty building with dim lighting and puppets from around the world in glass fronted cabinets. In one of the small galleries we found ourselves alone and surrounded on three sides by these frozen figures. And then, after we had been in the room studying the puppets for some time, we detected slight movements. It was positively uncanny….slowly and subtly, the puppets appeared to be coming alive.

The museum has moved to a new, larger building and houses a substantial portion of Jim Henson’s archive. During his lifetime he was a major supporter of the museum.

The bulk of the Henson archive, however, was donated four years ago by his family to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. New galleries were built to display this treasure trove and have recently opened. Fittingly, Sesame Street is just around the corner at the Kaufman Astoria Studios.

Visiting would be like meeting old friends; Kermit, Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Bert and Ernie, in total 40 Muppets all of whom have been lovingly restored. Being a stay at home mom when our children were little, I had the fun of getting to know the Muppets well. Mr. Henson knew that puppetry was not only for children, and the muppets always had some quips that only adults could appreciate.

In addition to loving good puppetry, I also get to use puppets in many of my natural science programs for children. We have over 40 puppets living in our house with us. Most are Folkmanis puppets all of which are extremely realistic animals. Judy Folkmanis started her business in her home and it has grown to be one of the largest suppliers of quality hand puppets in the world. I have not given her puppets names or personalities…..they are props to help me explain the features of the real animals they  resemble.

But then there is Flora. She is not a Folkmanis puppet, and I can’t even remember where I found her. Flora helps me do my plant science program for very young children. She has been such a hit with kids that she wore out and had to have a complete body transplant, right down to her roots. Flora always upstages me. Funny how a few pieces of felt and fake fur can have such an outsize personality.

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