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North American Carnival Museum and Archives

Transporting you into a magical past.

Experience the fascinating and bizarre world of carnivals and circuses in North America’s new carnival museum and archives.

We are part keeper of artefacts representing North American social and agricultural history, part curio cabinet, part edgy theatre and part repository of unique resource materials for researchers and historians.

From our collection: watercolour showfront painting by Jack Ray; photograph from the Conklin Collection (c. 1975); Puerto Rican horse game (rare); DodgeEm Junior ride car (c. 1930); ‘Love Tester’ (c. 1950); photograph from Conklin Collection, (c. 1940); clown game; “Rodeo” ride horse.

More about the North American Carnival Museum and Archives (NACMA)

The North American Carnival Museum and Archives is committed to the preservation, presentation and promotion of carnivals, circuses, fairs, expositions and amusement parks in North America. Exhibits, programming and research activities will be supported by a collection that includes artefacts, artwork, photographs, multimedia and archival material.

In the near future we plan to have a large museum building and grounds with diverse museum exhibits and programming, which will be open to the public year round.

The collection is currently housed in a 3000 square-foot [279 square meters] on site storage space with environmental controls and a 3000 square-foot [279 square meters] off site storage space. Presently, NACMA employs a full time Curator and is attracting a growing number of volunteers.

Since NACMA’s inception in 2008, it has acquired the Conklin Collection (at one time, the Conklin’s ran the largest carnival operation in North America), which consists of a large archives and many artefacts. NACMA has also acquired archival material from Lou Dufour, E. J. Casey and Bill Lynch and received donations in 2008 and 2009 from private individuals, independent show operators and Carnivàle Lune Bleue (CLB).

NACMA’s collection includes original paintings; gigantic marketing posters never issued; carnival route books; marketing leaflets; photographs of carnivals and fairs; and other archival materials. Among other unique objects are a bed of nails, a ‘Love Tester’, a guillotine, an electric chair, a gambling horse game, chalkware game prizes, gaming equipment, clown paraphernalia, rides, carousel horses and games, etc.

Presently, the collection is being photographed, registered and catalogued, and the Conklin Archives is undergoing an archival appraisal and assessment.

It is NACMA’s goal to see the greater part of the photo archives digitized and available for research.

A selection of NACMA’s artefacts are exhibited in Carnivàle Lune Bleue’s Congress of Wonders Museum as CLB travels during the summer. For the duration of the CLB show, the Congress of Wonders Museum is housed in a 2000 square-foot [185 square meters] tent.

In 2009 Carnivàle Lune Bleue will be presented in Ottawa’s Hog’s Back Park from July 23 to August 30, 5 p.m. to midnight.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Walker, Curator, North American Carnival Museum and Archives, www.nacma.org

Congress of Wonders and Carnivàle Lune Bleue

This summer at Carnivàle Lune Bleue you will encounter a slice of the extensive collection held by the North American Carnival Museum and Archives. Inside the Congress of Wonders tent you will discover the weird and the wonderful, the mischievous and the playful, and surprising gems that are works of art.

Behind the bally

Just as they flocked to the carnival trains and the trucks rolling into towns and cities across North America... just as they stood in deep lineups to pass through the bally curtains and into the emotionally charged phantasmagoric world of the carnival in the 1930’s... we still crave the unusual, something to startle, to disquiet the soul and transport us from the ordinariness of everyday life. This is the carnival.