Did You Know the World’s Only Ventriloquist Dummy Museum is in Kentucky?
Typically, when I think of the word, "museum," I usually picture a large building filled with artwork and artifacts from years gone by. Admittedly, that's a pretty narrow view of the word as there are all types of museums that come in all shapes and sizes. By definition, the word, "museum" means, "an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value." The final three words of that definition open it up to practically anything. In Indiana, there are museums dedicated to superheroes, quilting, and even windmills. However, our neighbors to the south in Kentucky have one museum you won't find anywhere else on planet Earth, one dedicated to the art of ventriloquism.
Enter the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
Opened in 1973 in the town of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky just a few miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio, the Vent Haven Museum features the personal collection of its founder, William Shakespear (W.S.) Berger, who spent more than 40 years collecting anything and everything he could related to ventriloquism. In addition to "more than one thousand dummies," the museum also features photos, scripts, memorabilia, playbills, posters, recordings, and more.
According to the museum's website, Berger was not a professional ventriloquist himself, but obviously was fascinated by the entertainment artform. He bought his first dummy in his early 30s and continued to add to his collection throughout the remainder of his life. He kept his collection in his home and once it outgrew the space, he moved it to a small, detached garage on his property. Eventually, the collection outgrew that space, so he built another small building next to it and filled it too. The home and the two buildings house the museum to this day and sit in a neighborhood that looks like any standard neighborhood in America.
The museum's website doesn't explain how where the name "Vent Haven" came from, although I do have my own theory. My guess is that "Vent" is short for ventriloquism and the museum is a "haven" for the performance art. Again, that is a complete and totally uneducated guess on my part. A theory, if you will.
I would say next time you're in the Cincinnati area, it might be worth making room in your trip itinerary for a stop at the Vent Haven Museum, but I won't. Not right now anyway. The reason being is the museum is temporarily closed. But, it's for a very good reason. They are currently in the process of building an entirely new facility on the same lot where the original home and building sit. Construction is expected to be finished and the museum re-opened to the public in the spring of 2023.
In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour courtesy of the news piece done by Kentucky Educational Television (KET).