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6/14/2013

Vent Haven Museum

This year I decided to join the Cincinnati Book Arts Society (aka CBAS, pronounced "sea-bass").  It's something I had thought of doing for sometime, but when my coworker Veronica joined our department and started talking how great CBAS was and all the cool things she got to do and make I was envious.  So far this year timing hasn't been on my side and I've missed a couple of events.  But I was really excited to go on the study group's field trip to Vent Haven Museum last weekend.

As it bills itself, Vent Haven is "the world's only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism".  I knew the museum was somewhere in Kentucky, but had no idea it was so close to Cincinnati; just across the river in Fort Mitchell.  Now, I knew nothing about ventriloquism or "vents" (as ventriloquists are referred)...well, besides for watching the Lamb Chop tv series growing up and the very very little I know of Jeff Dunham.
Well, and I was familiar with the creepy connotations that go along with ventriloquist dummies too, from scary movies and the like.  To say my knowledge of ventriloquism was very limited would be putting it nicely.  But I will confess, I was a little worried that the museum would be creepy and maybe a little scary.  Luckily, that was not the case at all.

Vent Haven is situated, oddly enough, on a little residential street.  This is because the museum is based on the personal collection of William S. Berger who lived in the residence that sits in front of the actual museum.  You can read more about Berger on their website, it's a really interesting story.  Berger's collection, along with a variety of donations over the years, has left the museum with approximately 800 dummies in three different buildings.  It's an incredible collection, even if you are like me and you are not a ventriloquist aficionado.

Tours are done by reservation only, for a $10 donation fee ($5 if you have a larger group like ours).  Jennifer, the curator of the museum, will tell you all about Berger, the history of his collection and the museum, as well as demonstrate how the dummies functions and tell you loads of incredible stories about various dummies and ventriloquists.
This is Jennifer demonstrating how the pulls work in this particular dummy.
Cecil Wigglenose is definitely a favorite!  He's so expressive with 8 different actions he can perform; crossing his eyes, raising his eyebrows and wiggling his nose, to name just a few.  As you can see, his inner workings are a bit different from the one above.
As we were going through the museum, I wasn't at all freaked out by the dummies.  Instead I was captivated by them, all so different and interesting in their own way.  Plus, Jennifer's energetic and positive attitude is just infectious and she gives you such an appreciation for ventriloquism and for the dummies themselves!

I found these particularly intriguing (top right and bottom), as did many in our group, because they look so real.
Johnny, the third from the left on the top row, was definitely one of my favorites.  He's just got so much personality to him.

I had the best time at Vent Haven!  In fact, it was probably one of the most interesting museums I've ever been to; I would go again in a heartbeat.  With so many dummies and all the walls lined with old photos, it's one of those places that you can go again and again and not see everything!  I do have more photos that I took but didn't share here...you can find them on my flickr.

Have you ever been to Vent Haven before?  Would you go?  I know a lot of you probably think from the photos that it is creepy, but trust me, it's not!  The combo of the wonderful curator and the refreshing layout of the museum is just leaves you with a sense of amazement!

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