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August 28, 2007 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Circus History, with photos, logos, show routes, and more. See also Circus World, Circus Web, and Princeton's Circus Poster Archive.
posted by Miko (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, between this and your recent Rock City post you're batting a thousand with me, Miko. Love the posters and logos links!

And although it's certainly not the greatest website out there, the Ringling Circus Museum is a great place to visit if you're down Florida way. I spent a pleasurable few hours there about, um... 18 years ago.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:30 AM on August 28, 2007

This clown is totally fuckin' wasted.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 AM on August 28, 2007

Can't sleep. Clowns will eat me.
posted by amyms at 6:43 AM on August 28, 2007

I knew twins who lost their parents because of this
posted by Postroad at 7:11 AM on August 28, 2007

Speaking of Florida and Ringling, there used to be an amusement park near Orlando called Circus World. Which is what I thought the FPP was linking to.
posted by Foosnark at 7:34 AM on August 28, 2007

No Circus would be complete without the Sideshow
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2007

Hey, that's a great link BBB. Just came across this *charming* little bit of history there, from the Golden Years of three-ring entertainment: Barnum's Cannibals.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:55 AM on August 28, 2007

For many years at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, there was a dark exhibition hall with huge, but small-scale hand-carved dioramas of specific circuses that one had to look at through restricted-size viewing portals.

The effect of the darkened hall, brightly illuminated dioramas, and small viewing windows was to inflate the apparent size of the 4-inch figures moving stiffly under the three-foot big top. It was another world, a transmission through time, an artisan's obsessive recollections of his long-ago childhood and childhood dreams.

The exhibition, as I recall, was sponsored by Sears.

Now the dioramas are located along a broad hall (labeled 'Circus' on the linked map) that leads to a popular attraction, the u-Boat. They have been placed at knee height in new cases that maximize viewer exposure via huge expanses of glass. The hallway is brightly lit and museum-goers stream by with only a passing glance. The dioramas themselves are in sad shape, with missing figures, grotesquely broken and dismembered animals and humans, and stuck or non-functional parts.

One supposes this neglect and terrible exhibit design reflects the exigencies of floorspace and funding at the museum. It must also reflect a declining interest in the circus itself as a medium of wonder and spectacle in our culture. The original incarnation of the exhibit successfully communicated to me the power of the spectacle of the Big Top. It can never do that as it is displayed today.
posted by mwhybark at 8:20 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Today must be my lucky day! I'm beginning layout on my short animated film about a circus, and along comes your post, overflowing with cool circus pics!



For the record, I hate clowns too.
posted by shino-boy at 9:30 AM on August 28, 2007

My hometown, until a few years ago, had a really cool circus museum. Unfortunately it closed, and now all the circus stuff is hiding somewhere. Sad.
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 10:33 AM on August 28, 2007

In the course of my own research for a novel and other projects related to the lynchings in Duluth, MN, I have spent a day at the archives in Baraboo, WI--the Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center, "the world's foremost research facility for circus history." They have an incredible amount of stuff, but are woefully underfunded. It would be amazing to get even just the images they have online. I think it is true that interest in circus history has waned quite a bit.

If you decide to go, please note that they are almost never staffed--you have to make an appointment.
posted by RedEmma at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2007

This clown is totally fuckin' wasted.
No, this clown is totally fuckin' wasted. Heh.

For the record, I hate clowns too.
Yeah, well maybe I'm not too bonkers for your honky-ass either. Ya know - for the record.
You just gave me another 6 months worth of inspiration here. Freakin' clownists. Heh.
posted by racist dunk-tank clown at 1:19 PM on August 28, 2007

I have a folklorist friend who points out that there's nothing unusual about being creeped out by clowns...they're supposed to be creepy. Since the Middle Ages they've been meant to represent the absurd and out-of-control; they're creatures of entropy, pathos, misrule, and mockery. They used to be far more scary, too. Clowns were the ones who could speak truth to power behind the mask of anoynymity, and poke fun at leaders with jeering and taunting. Another clown trope was watching an evil clown plot an overthrow of another person, only to get an embarrassing comeuppance. In any case, clowns are people who disturb and disrupt the status quo. The idea of clowns as cute and funny is a more recent Victorian glossing-over of the darker things they represent, but you know, you can still tell... they're just not OK.
posted by Miko at 2:57 PM on August 28, 2007

Circus World, meh. Show World, now there was a circus. (Possibly NSFW, depends on your W)
posted by Kinbote at 6:46 PM on August 28, 2007

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