UPDATE TO POST, 7/22/13: I was delighted to receive a new comment left on this post by "Doc" Rivera, curator of the International Independent Showmen's Museum in Gibsonton, Florida. For those interested, please link onto comments below.
Warning to those considering an artifact donation to Circus World Museum. It could end up tossed aside into anonymous dust. It could be walked off with by an employee seeking to enrich his or her personal collection. It could be defaced beyond recognition. Worse yet, converted into something other than what it is. In other words, rather than preserved under ideal museum conditions, your donation might be virtually lost forever.
Exhibit A: the above photo of a Foley & Burk flat car shipped to Circus World in 1971 by the late carnival owner Lloyd Hilliogsss. This flat car, to the common eye, no longer exists. Sometime around the year 1985, Mr Hilligoss's offering vanished completely out of sight, off the lot -- into the abyss of shameful museum meddling to feed its obsession for more wagons, more car train cars. More more more no matter how bogus or how little of the original materials actually exist.
A Shameful Neglect of Carnival Items Offered in Good Faith
"Foley & Burk" was removed from the flat car, to be replaced by the words "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey."
Does anybody out there need more persuasive evidence that, at Circus World, traditional museum preservation ethics are trumped and trashed at the whim of reckless personal agendas? No wonder Circus World (as it now calls itself) was kicked out of the American Alliance of Museums back around 1999. Perhaps that was why the powers that be decided to delete the word "museum" from the founding title.
Walking the grounds, you may find some old F&B wagons out there in the open air. The circus wagons? They enjoy tony indoor quarters, possibly temperature controlled to protect and preserve their alleged authenticity. I know one insider who refers to the formidable collection as "the world's largest full-scale model circus wagon exhibit."
Among the standards of conduct that must be adhered to by members of the museum association, one is that a collection must be made reasonably accessible to the public. Among the elements of acceptable “Collections Stewardship” specified by the association, there is this: “The museum provides public access to its collections while ensuring their preservation.”
The Tale of the Thimble Theatre Fun House
I was once informed by a previous library director that, in fact, the Foley & Burk Thimble Theatre fun house was at one time erected, but that it was too dangerous for people to walk through. This rationale for its being confined, off site, to a shoddy wall-less barn, subjected to the harsh winter elements, was at the least disingenuous. Since when does a historical fun house have to be fully operational in order for it merely to be set up and displayed? Since when, for that matter, do museum officials allow the public to climb aboard and walk through any of their coveted "circus wagons"?
For Those Fans Who Care
This Foley and Burk photo, posted on Bob Cline's blog, Sawdust and Spangles, on August 4, 2010, was brought to my attention by an interested party, the latest in a series of interested parties who discover my posting about the history of Circus World (to find the posting: type "A Tale of Two Museums in the search box above), and, as a result, will e-mail me to share their own regrets and frustrations. This person has contacted Baraboo, and also operatives at the Wisconsin State Historical Society, who technically own the entire Circus World, down to every last book and bolt. What might be done, he asked each, for the fun house and other F&B wagons to be properly displayed? To be handed over to a more appropriate facility for professional preservation? The answers he received were evasively bureaucratic. Can it be a secret to anybody that the folks who make a living at Circus World are driven to raise money so that they can preserve their jobs, period?
Wrote Bob Cline on his post:
"Here's one of those rare, once in a lifetime shots of the Foley and Burk wagons and flatcar after they arrived at the Circus World Museum. They kept the Foley and Burk title on the flatcar for the first year they used it in 1972. They did change the number from Foley and Burk's #45 to the CWM #75. It remained the same for the 1973 parade.
By time they resurrected the train again in 1985, this car was now painted silver with the red letters and white outline using the classic Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Combined Circus title."
Anybody out there care to challenge or correct my thinking? Am I getting it all wrong? Do I fail to understand some deeper essence?
A Better Home at the Right Musuem
Here, from their website:
"The Museum of the American Carnival has been a dream held by historians, carnival enthusiasts, and those in the outdoor amusement business for the past decade. With the generous support of the International Independent Showmen's Museum Corporation, Greater Sun City Center Community Foundation, International Independent Showmen's Association, members of the International Independent Showmen's Association, and University of South Florida Libraries Special Collections Department, the museum is near completion. The museum currently features historical wagons from various carnivals and traveling shows, several rides, rare games, photographs, and other carnival related artifacts."
Circus World Museum -- and/or Wisconsin Historical Society: Are you reading this? Have you a conscience? Or have you no shame?
Link onto "Doc" Rivera's comment below.