Mar 31, 2011
09:03 AM
Discover Connecticut

Weekend Discovery: Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry

Weekend Discovery: Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry

The Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut in Storrs is one of the only schools and museums solely dedicated to art of puppetry. 

The study of puppetry at UConn was initiated by Dr. Frank W. Ballard, who joined the school’s faculty in 1956 and began what would become a world-renowned fine arts puppetry program in 1965. Together with a group of the program’s alumni, Ballard founded the National Institute of Puppetry in 1987, which soon after took his name. In 1996, the museum facility officially opened, originally displaying dozens of puppets created by Ballard and others. The collection has since grown to include over 2,700 puppets from around the world as well as historically important creations, some of which are centuries old. Essentially every kind of puppet imaginable is on display, including marionettes, shadow figures and hand, rod and finger puppets. In addition to changing exhibitions, the museum regularly offers workshops, tours, lectures, forums and other programs.

Sadly, Frank Ballard died last June due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease—the museum continues on under the direction of Dr. John Bell, an accomplished puppeteer and theater historian. To honor Dr. Ballard's legacy, the museum is showcasing his work in two exhibits: Frank Ballard: An Odyssey of a Life in Puppetry, which "presents the stories, designs, construction processes, and performance of Ballard’s many productions, including rare video footage, as well as the many personal challenges Ballard faced in his career"; and Frank Ballard: Roots and Branches, which examines the many influences on Ballard's work.

This weekend April 1-3 is also the International Puppetry Conference at UConn, the first international scholarly puppetry conference in the U.S. There are numerous events open to the public, including lectures and performances.

For more info about the Ballard Institute, call 860.486.0339 or visit

Weekend Discovery: Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry

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