Carnival Museum

Step Right Up!: The Travelling Carnival in Canada

The Carnival Museum - The World’s Only Carnival & Circus Museum

Now open at THEMUSEUM, 10 King St. West, Kitchener. Call 519-747-3487.

The history of the modern travelling carnival in North America grew out of earlier travelling shows such as the circus, theatre groups and other performers who travelled the continent entertaining people and the agricultural societies who held fairs to improve the standard of living and economic conditions through agricultural and home-craft education and competition.

The concept of the modern North American travelling carnival was born on the Midway Plaisance of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chigaco, Illinos. Since that time, showmen, artists, athletes and carnies have been crisscrossing the continent by wagon, rail and truck, bringing both the modern and the mysterious world to cities, towns and villages all across the continent. This itinerant lifestyle created a sub culture of carnival workers, colourful characters who developed their own vocabulary.

The early carnivals were a collection of shows, exhibits and concessions with maybe a couple of rides. They would travel from town to town uninvited following the money. As the 20th century progressed, the carnivals became more organized, more lawful and more focused on thrill rides. The midway became a fundraising draw for agricultural fairs and other events.

The Carnival Museum was born in 2009, a not for profit museum spun off of a living history 1930s carnival called Carnivale Lune Bleue. Originally exhibiting in tents on fairgrounds, the Carnival Museum is once again taking to the road due to zoning issues at the Brantford Winter Quarters which prevent us from opening to the public. By turning the Great Hall Carnival exhibit into a single-o travelling museum, The Carnival Museum is once again capturing the essence of the carnival.

Exhibit Background

Originally developed in 2014 for The Carnival Museum’s Fun Factory in Brantford, Ontario this open storage style exhibit with interactive components was in the 3,000 sq. ft. Great Hall.

Exhibit Concept

Step Right Up!: The Travelling Carnival in Canada will weave visitors through 150 years of the history of the travelling carnival, from its origins in both travelling entertainment and agricultural societies to its genesis at the 1893 World’s Fair and the developments through the 20th and 21st century that made it one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country.

Select artifacts, posters and photographs from The Carnival Museum’s collection will be on display behind reader rails which weave a narrative of the history of the carnival to North American culture. A separate set of didactic panels focus on carnival lingo, a dictionary of words created solely for use by the showmen and carnies who travelled across North America.

Exhibit Specs

List of Components

This travelling exhibit consists of the following components

Floor Plan

Text Panel Storyline


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