By Katie Sparks
Many people in the Atlanta area are familiar with the Center for Puppetry Arts. It is a popular destination, offering live puppet shows for families and adults, puppet-building workshops, and a Museum featuring puppets from around the world as well as a beloved Jim Henson exhibit. As you might imagine, it is difficult to hold in-person puppet shows in an era of social distancing, especially since they often involve enthusiastic crowds who are encouraged to sing and dance along with performances! To adapt, the Museum is currently open by appointment only, and there are live puppet shows available online.
The shows and the Museum drive a lot of the traffic to the Center for Puppetry Arts. For those of us interested in special and research libraries, however, The Center’s Nancy Staub Research Library is an unexpected delight. The Library includes books about puppeteering, creating puppets, and the deep and fascinating global history of puppetry. The collections also contain video of performances, as well as movies and TV shows, many of which are hard to find elsewhere or are unique to the Center. There is a viewing station for visitors who want to see film content.
When I began work at the Center for Puppetry Arts, I used the Library extensively to learn about objects we had on display from the collections, and to bone up on facts. I gave tours at the Museum, and I have learned through experience that you need a pretty deep knowledge base to satisfy serious Jim Henson fans (I am still a Henson trivia novice after two years of study).
A neat recent project by former Archives Intern Piruz Haney focused on processing the Thomas Fountain Collection. One of the funny things about puppeteers is that they can often be less famous than their puppets! Fountain is best known for being the lead puppeteer for Salem the Cat from the TV show “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” The Museum collection contains two animatronic Salem puppets, and other objects from the show. If you are interested in hearing when new objects are put on display in the Museum, you can follow the Center for Puppetry Arts on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CenterforPuppetryArts/.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library is not currently open to visitors. In the meantime, researchers can view the items in the collection on the Library’s website, https://puppet.org/about/nancy-staub-research-library/.
Yanique Leonard, the Center’s Collections Manager, is happy to answer any questions by email at YaniqueLeonard@puppet.org.