Our Mission: To Inspire curiosity, creativity and confidence through instructive entertainment


Museum Hours:

Our Envisioning the Future! exhibit, featuring artifacts that belonged to P.T. Barnum, Tom Thumb and others, is open for viewing and exploration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m on Thursdays and Fridays. This exhibit is located in the People's United Bank Gallery adjacent to the historic building.

Please note that our historic Museum building is closed due to storm damage from the F1 tornado that struck Bridgeport on June 24th, 2010.

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Barnum Museum restoration gets a backbone
Connecticut Post | 4/17/15 | By Frank Juliano

Most property owners would faint if three large, heavy steel girders were brought in through an upstairs window and then lifted into the attic. But something like that at the downtown Barnum Museum — home of a real mummy, a fake mermaid and enough circus equipment to fill three Big Top rings — it was almost business as usual. ... Read More.


Spring 2015 Program Series at The Barnum Museum:

Animals in American Life: Pets, Performers, and Zoos

Beginning in March and continuing through May, The Barnum Museum will host an array of animal-themed programs that explore topics such as the history of pet ownership, the story of Jumbo the elephant and other 19th century elephants, the history of zoo-keeping, and Connecticut's own Beardsley Zoo. A portion of the program series is funded by a grant from Connecticut Humanities, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. View the Connecticut Humanities Grant for Animals in American Life press release.

Please check this website for announcements regarding weather-related closures.

TEDxWestportLibrary Conference: Imagination
Saturday, April 18, 2015 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

In the third of the “Re-Tinkering —Libraries” series, explore imagination. Presenters include Irving Wladawsky-Berger, VP emeritus, IBM; consultant, IBM and Citigroup; Visiting Lecturer, MIT; Hans Wilhelm, one of America's foremost author/illustrator of children's books; Kathleen Maher, Executive Director/Curator at The Barnum Museum; Timothy Brewer, 3D artist, classical painter, musician, developer/programmer; and Erika Smith, Deputy Director at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. The day will be moderated by Dianne Wildman, former Cablevision editorial director. Register online & More Information.

Matthew Scott, Jumbo's faithful keeper, is shown feeding the 11-1/2-foot tall elephant, whose popularity with the public of all ages became legendary and made him a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. Photo Credit: Collection of The Barnum Museum

Sunday, April 19 at 2 p.m.
Jumbo: Marvel, Myth, and Mascot
by Dr. Andrew McClellan of Tufts University

In celebration of the arrival of Jumbo, the famous African Elephant, in America on April 9, 1882, this program will explore the fascinating story of the larger-than-life celebrity whom P. T. Barnum purchased from the London Zoo. His legacy lives on today: "jumbo" is now a common adjective used to describe anything very, very large. Jumbo's image has been used by many companies as a marketing tool, and at the height of his popularity all kinds of household objects were made with elephants in their design. Dr. Andrew McClellan, professor of Art History at Tufts University, will present an illustrated talk with rarely seen images relating to the great beast's life. Dr. McClellan is an expert on Jumbo, having recently curated the exhibition, Jumbo: Marvel, Myth and Mascot (2014), and authored an accompanying book by the same title.

No registration required. $5 Suggested Donation. Free for museum members and kids under 12.


Wednesday, May 13 at 12:15 pm.
Zoomobile!: Animals and Animal Artifacts
presented by Michelle Gaudreau, Beardsley Zoo Educator

Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo Zoomobile will pay an an informal lunchtime "show and tell" visit to the museum, bringing small animals to meet program attendees. Michelle Gaudreau, Beardsley Zoo Educator, will talk about these and other animals at the zoo, and show a variety of animal artifacts that people can explore through touch. Come learn about wild animals and animal conservation programs at the Beardsley Zoo, as well as what we discover by looking at animal "artifacts" like skulls and bones.

No registration required. $3 Suggested Donation. Free for museum members and kids under 12. Bring a brown bag lunch if you wish.


Sunday, May 17 at 2 pm.
Connecticut's Beardsley Park and Zoo:
A History of Land and Tigers

by Gregg Dancho, Executive Director, Beardsley Zoo

Zoo Executive Director, Gregg Dancho will present a program about this National Register site's early history, beginning with the gift of land to the City of Bridgeport in the 1880s, and its transformation to a professionally-staffed, accredited zoo. Dancho's talk will also discuss how zoo-keeping philosophies have changed over the years. He began his career there as a volunteer and worked his way up to become park director in 1983. Beardsley Zoo, with more than 150 acres, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It began acquiring wild animals as inhabitants in the 1920's and was officially transformed into a zoo in the 1980's. Dancho will explain the parks' philosophies on acquiring and keeping wild animals as well as information about the many conservation actions in place at the zoo.

Dancho will discuss the zoo's current work to ensure the survival of Siberian (Amur) tigers.

No registration required. $5 Suggested Donation. Free for museum members and kids under 12. For information about the zoo contact 203-364-6565 or visit beardsleyzoo.org.



Dear Friends of The Barnum Museum,

What an extraordinary time it has been! We have completed vision planning for the Museum's future exhibits with designers BRC Imagination Arts; restoration of the landmark building has begun; we have welcomed thousands of guests from all over the world to our many programs, tours and outreach events; we are launching a new exciting children's program; and we are thrilled to reinvigorate our membership family after a brief hiatus during disaster recovery.

I hope you will consider a tax-deductible gift to The Barnum Museum! Your gift will truly help us continue our work and bring inspiring new programs to all museum goers. The passion and enthusiastic encouragement of friends like you has inspired us to achieve wonderful things and bring a new and vibrant 21st century to life.

Our new Mission Statement is "To inspire curiosity, creativity and confidence through instructive entertainment."

We truly look forward to upholding these meaningful words and continue our service of giving joy and happiness to all.

Please think of the Museum and make a gift toward our continued efforts. You can also give a gift of membership to a loved one. Every contribution helps us move closer toward a vibrant restoration and reinvigorated Barnum Museum experience!

BRC Imagination Arts concept design for the future.

Kathleen Maher,
Executive Director, The Barnum Museum

"The Noblest Art is that of Making Others Happy"
P.T. Barnum, 1886

Please make checks payable to The Barnum Museum, or contribute online below.
All contributions are tax deductible.


We invite you to join us as a Vision Member
and be a part of The Barnum Museum's history

Dear Friends,

In 1889, P.T. Barnum wrote, "The Noblest Art Is That Of Making Others Happy." Although written 125 years ago, these words still underscore The Barnum Museum's vision and mission. As one of the longest ongoing museums in the nation, the museum remains true to P.T. Barnum's original mission; 'Instructive Entertainment.' For over a century, families from around the world have visited The Barnum Museum and experienced wonder, curiosity, surprise and enrichment. With exhibits ranging from a 4,000 year-old mummy to the recently acquired 'Centaur of Tymfi,' the Museum continues to amaze and enthrall guests of all ages.

Today, the Museum is emerging from damage sustained from a series of natural disasters and forging exciting plans for the future. We are thrilled to be working with BRC Imagination Arts (the award winning, world renowned exhibit designers) to create new and vibrant exhibits that offer learning through exploration, imagination, and innovation, stimulating the power of creativity and sparking intellectual curiosity!

We invite you to join us as a Vision Member and be a part of The Barnum Museum's history! As a Vision Member, you will have the opportunity to be enthralled by the wonderful and compelling stories of Barnum's glorious past, stories that will capture your imagination and create memories to last a lifetime.

Vision Member benefits include:

  • Free admission to Museum programs.
  • A complimentary copy of P.T. Barnum's famous book, The Art of Money Getting.
  • Member's Only" previews of new exhibitions & events.
  • Private Behind-the-Scenes Tours with the Curator.
  • Annual "Evening with the Director" soiree.
  • Invitation to the Annual Meeting & Reception.

I hope you will consider joining as a Vision Member, and become part of The Barnum Museum legacy. Please know how important Museum members are to our on-going objective to offer enriching programs! Simply click here and conveniently join today! As you consider your membership, please also consider giving an extra gift in support of the Museum's continuing programs, or give a gift membership to a friend or family member. As always, your contribution is tax-deductible.

On behalf of The Barnum Museum, I sincerely thank you for your kindness and support, and we look forward to serving you with enriching experiences!

With much Gratitude,
Kathleen Maher
Executive Director


Donate now to help the Barnum Museum Recovery!

The historic structure of The Barnum Museum has been closed to the public since a tornado struck the City of Bridgeport on June 24, 2010 without warning and caused major damage to the building. The Museum's modern wing, People's United Bank Gallery, is open on a limited schedule: Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for programs and lectures at other times.

You can help sustain this legacy of P. T. Barnum by donating to the Museum's restoration fund.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the unique 1893 landmark is the only remaining structure in the country that is directly related to the great showman and icon of American entertainment history. Thank you for your generosity!

Please visit our Virtual Barnum Museum for Exhibits & Collection Videos!


The Barnum Museum | 820 Main Street Bridgeport, CT 06604 | phone: 203-331-1104 | fax: 203-331-0079


Images owned by The Barnum Museum, Bridgeport, CT.  ©The Barnum Museum - All Rights Reserved

Made possible in part by the
Fairfield County Community Foundation