Nwe york -history Essay Example


New York City: The Barnum Museum

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22/05/ 2011

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The Image of Barnum Museum
The map of Barnum Museum

The Barnum Museum

Phineas Taylor Barnum is the man behind the magnificent and historical structure: Barnum Museum. The Barnum Museum is found in United States, 820 Main Street Bridgeport, Connecticut. Its architectural style contains Byzantine, Islamic, Gothic and Romanesque influences. It is constructed using stones and terra cotta. Land and construction funds were provided by Barnum. It was completed in 1893 and was first used as a resource library and a lecture hall. Later on it was transformed into a museum with its first features depicting the history of Bridgeport and Barnum. Today, the Barnum Museum and its operations are dedicated to the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum.

As shown map of Barnum Museum, it is clear that its location is quite convenient for visitors and residents of New York City. Its location near the Bridgeport highly contributes to its attractiveness. In addition, this also makes it more accessible to those people coming from other states and nations of the world into New York City. The image of Barnum Museum depicts a historical view. The architectural design can be highly associated with historical events of America and those of New York City.

American Museum on lower Broadway in New York City. Promoting the Museum as a place for family entertainment, enlightenment and instructive amusement, Barnum’s American Museum became a shrine for advancing public knowledge of fine arts, music, literature and the marvels of nature, showcasing natural curiosities alongside artistic and historic exhibitions. Barnum’s American Museum quickly became the cultural hub of New York, claiming its place as the city’s most popular attraction for many years. There are many amusements that are currently experienced in New York City than earlier found that are linked to the development of Barnum Museum. Majority of the Americans held a great value for morality and civic behavior. Due to thus, they had a negative perception towards public entertainment. However, Barnum challenged this popular social ideology by opening his

New York City, with its prosperous shipping, railroad and real estate industries became the dominant industrial center of the Northeast at around 1850. With its expansion as a commercial city, job opportunities increased evidently. Following this, there was increase in the number of residents in New York City. At around this time, majority of New York residents could not afford owning a house or rent homes. Therefore, they lived in tenements or boarding houses which did not provide pleasures like those found in traditional homes such as parlor entertainments and family gatherings. Due to this, the number of those seeking for entertainment grew rapidly and entrepreneurs were influenced to seek new enterprises. Barnum’s idea of a museum was to offer a range of amusements through a dime museum. Therefore, since the few entertainment places such as hotels, concerts and churches could not provide such amusements, Barnum established the Barnum Museum (Dennett 1997).

The Barnum Museum has been long recognized by historians as a pivotal institution in the development of the nineteenth- century urban culture. Initially, visitors would pay twenty five cents to be admitted in the Barnum Museum. Great artworks took place in the Barnum Museum. Inside the Barnum Museum there was a theater referred as the ‘Lecture Room’ which was used for family entertainment and education. Vitale (2006) adds that many stars such as Tom Thumb and Fejee Mermaid performed in the Lecture room as well as the famous Shakespearean dramas. The Museum also promoted education through providing natural history in menageries, aquaria, paintings and memorabilia among others. The Barnum Museum is therefore considered as a sign of education and social development.

Consequently, such entertainment and education influenced New York residents’ way of life. The New York City urban culture was characterized by increasing difference in taste, in subject and in audience. Due to this, the Barnum’s American Museum was a place where immigrants, native- born, working- class and middle- class and visitors from countryside could gather and interact with each other. Since culture and social aspects were the major interests of the Barnum Museum, this impacted on the New York City as well as its people. The Barnum Museum increased the residents’ cultural and social awareness and therefore improving the way these residents interacted with each other. On the other hand, the Barnum’s Museum is a sign of history of the residents of New York City and America as a whole.

In addition, the Barnum Museum houses the most significant collection of materials related to extraordinary careers of Barnum. These include: a five- ring, hand- carved miniature circus, clown costumes and pros and personal mementos of Barnum, Tom Thumb and Jenny Lind. The Museum honors contributions of Bridgeport to industrial revolution and the architectural heritage of the city. The number of tourists visiting the New York City has tremendously increased since the construction of the Barnum Museum. Those visiting the Bridgetown, Connecticut cannot fail to visit the museum.

The various forms of attraction inside the museum include paintings, figures which are waxed, historical dramas like Shakespeare and memorabilia. Like any other museum it is used to maintain the history of the country, which helps in educating individuals in the country at large. An individual gets to learn things about their origin through the information that is collected in this museum. The children in these area that have access to this museum get to know more about the origin of their culture and beliefs this is due to the fact that this museum existed since the 18th century till now. Those who benefit most from the operations of Barnum Museum are the residents of New York City. The people of New York City consider the Barnum Museum with high dignity since it is an integral part of their lives.

Historians from New York and other parts of the world use the Barnum Museum as a source of information concerning great philosophers and scholars and other great people such as Phineas Taylor Barnum from the archives of Barnum Museum. In addition, material about Gage in relation to Barnum is searched at the Barnum Museum Archive, in the historic collections of the New York Historical Society. There is a systematic sampling of Barnum’s advertisements for the Barnum Museum attractions featured in the New York Times (Malcolm 2002).

The Barnum Museum has really aided in shaping the America experience in the past and it has the potential to play an even more aggressive role in shaping American life in the future. The Barnum Museum offers powerful educational models that can help redesign and reform education in the New York City. Furthermore, it is an important centre of New York community development and renewal. However, in order to attain this Barnum Museum must engage the world with a spirit of activism and openness more than it used to do earlier on. Barnum Museum together with other American Museums must reclaim the sense of bold entrepreneurship and experimentation that was found during the period of museum movement in America.

The New York City became a dominant center for trade and commerce and its economic and cultural power was displayed through the museums and in particular the Barnum Museum. Consequently, Barnum Museum is considered by the New York City residents and America as a whole as investment and a very important part in their growth and success. Wealthy Americans and other influential personalities in New York City would collect valuable artistic masterpieces and deposit them in Barnum Museum. This makes New York City to be considered as a base and source of art and design (Gail 2004).

The Barnum Museum is quite diverse since it focuses on a combination of art, history, science and archeology hence presenting the residents of New York City with great enrichment of their mind and lifestyle. The New York City is thus considered as a resourceful place where its residents and visitors from other parts of the world gain a lot from it. On the other hand, materials used in the Barnum Museum are acquired from all over the world and they are presented in displays designed to blend or mix entertainment and education. Since Barnum Museum is quite a resourceful place particularly with history and information about New York City, visitors and tourists take advantage of it to acquire the information they want.

As highlighted above, Barnum Museum has highly contributed to social, cultural and economic development of the New York City. Thus, when addressing the social, cultural and economic spheres of New York City, one cannot rule out Barnum Museum and its impact. Major attractions of the Barnum Museum are its architectural design, its features and items displayed in house. Its location which has great geographical and physical features and a high population makes it more convenient for anyone considering a visit. The historical paintings, architectural design and amazing features has are the main attractions to the Barnum Museum (Earl 2002). It is also important to consider Phineas Taylor Barnum, the great man behind Barnum Museum.


Dennett, A.S 1997, Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America. NYU Press.

Earls, S 2002, Daytrips New York: 50 One Day Adventures in New York, Hastinghouse.

Gail, A 2004, Reinventing the Museum: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the

Paradigm Shifts, Rowman Altamira.

Malcolm, M An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage, The MIT Press.

Vitale, J 2006, There’s a Customer Born Every Minute: P.T. Barnum’s Amazing 10 “Rings of

Power”, Wiley Publishers.