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4/9/2014 - April will be full of surprises at The Barnum Museum

Focus on the history of P.T. Barnum's Popular Humbugs, Hoaxes, and Curiosities

In April, The Barnum Museum will unveil an unusual new acquisition, and will offer programs that uncover the truths behind some of P.T Barnum's famous humbugs and curiosities. Please check or Facebook to confirm program status should weather concerns arise.

Sunday, April 13 at 2 p.m. – Frauds, Myths and Mysteries presented by Central Connecticut State University Professor Kenneth Feder, PhD. The program will discuss some of history’s most unusual frauds and myths, including the astounding story of P.T. Barnum’s Cardiff Giant. Why are archaeological frauds so common?  Why are they so successful? What are the common pitfalls of pulling off an archaeological fraud?  Archaeologist Ken Feder addresses past and recent examples and more in this lecture. $5 suggested donation.

Some perpetrators of archaeological frauds use their humbugs to support a preferred version of human antiquity, while others are only in it for the money. Did an ancient Etruscan living in southern Italy really leave a series of scrolls detailing the lives of his people and chronicling their subjugation by the Romans? A wealthy young man in Tuscany wanted people to believe that, but it wasn’t true. Did the body of a twelve-foot giant, “Goliath,” from before Noah’s flood, actually fossilize beneath farmland in upstate New York where a farmer discovered it while digging a well in the late 1860s? George Hull wanted you to believe that. It wasn’t true, but P.T. Barnum recognized an irresistible curiosity when he learned of it, and then created his own “Cardiff Giant” for people to examine. 

Kenneth L. Feder is a professor of archaeology at Central Connecticut State University. He has authored several books on archaeology and criticism of “pseudoarchaeology” including Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology.  Dr. Feder is the founder and director of the Farmington River Archaeological Project that studies the prehistory of the region. He has also appeared on the ancient astronauts episode of National Geographic Channel's Is It Real?, as well as several episodes of the BBC documentary series Horizon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Spring Break Family Programming, Myths & Mysteries

Come to the Museum and enjoy fun and educational activities for families centered on the theme of myths and mysteries. Spark your imagination with a craft project that inspires curiosity and creativity. Hands-on investigative activities will get students thinking!  Appropriate for ages 5 and up. Please call (203) 331-1104 x 100 to register; space is limited. $5 suggested donation per family.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 12:15 p.m. – Sneak Peeks continue with Created Characters: Barnum’s Transformation of the Ordinary to the Extraordinary

The monthly Sneak Peek series continues with Created Characters: Barnum’s Transformation of the Ordinary to the Extraordinary. This lunchtime program will feature artifacts that reveal the true stories behind Barnum's 'cast of characters' from the Feejee Mermaid to Tom Thumb. During this informal presentation, the Museum’s Registrar, Melissa Houston, will explore some of the stories key to our understanding of P.T. Barnum, and using artifacts in the museum’s collection, corroborate or bring to light what really happened. For example, was Albert the elephant really given to the Smithsonian? Did Barnum visit Waterloo with Tom Thumb? Was the Feejee mermaid the only mermaid Barnum ever exhibited?

No one was more skilled than P. T. Barnum at transforming a tale of normal life into the grandest adventure. Join us for a fascinating exploration into the ways Barnum used imagery to sell tickets to see a mermaid, employed outlandish advertising language to make a rock sound as valuable as the Hope Diamond, and created stories featuring people so remarkable we want to believe they are true! Bring your lunch if you wish, and a curious mind!  No registration required. $3 suggested donation. Members are free.

WHAT:  The Barnum Museum's April programs

WHERE:  The Barnum Museum, 820 Main Street, Bridgeport in the People’s United Bank Gallery. Entry located at the back of the historic building

COST: Various see above, however Barnum Museum members are always free.

Call for more information 203-331-1104 ext.100, M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The back exhibition hall of the museum, featuring artifacts that belonged to P.T. Barnum, Tom Thumb and others, is open for viewing and exploration on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Beginning April 5, 2014, the gallery will also be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays throughout the summer.  To learn more about The Barnum Museum’s current programs visit You can also visit the museum on Facebook, view past programs at or communicate on Twitter @BarnumMuseum.

The original Barnum Institute building is owned by the City of Bridgeport and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.