Nearly every culture throughout time seems to have enjoyed puppet theater of some sort. They can be used for humor or drama, tell stories about the past or the present, or be for children or adults. One of the wonders of puppet theater is that it is many or even all of these aspects at once.
The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut promotes puppetry as an art form and preserves a collection of more than 2,500 puppets from around the world, along with books, posters, and other puppetry-related media.
The Institute began in 1987 as the Puppet Preservation Committee, an organization with the aim of collecting and preserving the works of puppeteer, designer, director, and theater teacher Frank Ballard. Its collections soon expanded to includes a wide variety of puppets from different cultures. After changing its name to the Ballard Institute and moving locations several times, the organization settled at its current home, nestled between shops and restaurants in Storrs, Connecticut.
The museum’s main exhibit room displays dozens of puppets from its collection to showcase the diversity of designs and subjects. It also houses two galleries devoted to ever-changing special exhibits that have previously included Chinese shadow-puppets, marrionettes inspired by army ant symbiotes, and street theater performances.
The Institute regularly hosts professional puppetry performances and offers workshops on making puppets, masks, toy theaters, and more.
Know Before You Go
Admission to the Ballard Institute is free, though donations are greatly welcome.
The Institute is located in a shopping and dining plaza by Mansfield Town Square just off of Storrs Road. Parking is available behind the plaza. Follow Royce Circle as it curves around until you come to the parking structure.