Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

Five Questions with The Merry-Go-Round Museum

Sandusky, Ohio

A carousel animal. Photo courtesy of The Merry-Go-Round Museum

There are few things which better embody the joy of childhood than a merry-go-round. Colorful, whimsical, and whirring with Wurlitzer organ music, carousels are happiness personified. So it stands to reason that The Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, is an exceptionally happy place. Visitors can learn about the different types of carousel animals, watch a demonstration of carousel figure woodcarving, or simply look through the merry-go-round creatures that now call the museum home. At the center of the museum is an historic 1939 Allan Herschell carousel, which has been restored and continues to operates. We spoke with the The Merry-Go-Round Museum's Executive Director, Veronica Vanden Bout, who told us why her museum is worth a spin.

NEA: In your opinion, what makes The Merry-Go-Round Museum unique?

VERONICA VANDEN BOUT: Housed in one of only two round-front post offices in the U.S., The Merry-Go-Round Museum’s exhibits create intriguing and entertaining looks at the history of carousels and the wonder of woodcarving. How many museums have a working carousel in the heart of the gallery? Most visitors are surprised and pleased to discover their visit will include a merry-go-round ride, as well as a chance to watch carousel animals come to life as our woodcarvers create the horses.

NEA: What are you personal favorite pieces in the collection?

VANDEN BOUT: Ask me to pick my favorite child, it would be easier! There is Gwen, a delightful palomino pony on the carousel, who is very special to me for the family that supported her restoration and return to glory. But one of our newest carvings, a frog, is so much fun to share with our visitors. Frogs are the only carousel animals that wear clothes, and Frodrick the Frog has a vest and pants, along with a polka dot bowtie!

NEA: Why do you think people find merry-go-rounds so endearing?

VANDEN BOUT: Most of us have the memory of a beloved adult holding us on a merry-go-round when we were too small to ride alone. And no matter what age we are, there is always the carousel! Doesn’t matter if we are seniors taking a ride back in time or a little one experiencing the joy for the first time, carousels are timeless!

NEA: What will people learn about the history or craftsmanship of merry-go-rounds at the museum?

VANDEN BOUT: Volunteer tour guides share details on the art of carousels, sharing information on the styles and types of merry-go-rounds, discussing both menagerie animals and horses. A visit with a woodcarver creating new animals is a real treat, as we share the news that carousels are not dying but have come full circle.

NEA: What exhibits or programs will visitors find at the museum this summer?

VANDEN BOUT: The exhibit for 2011 is WILD! More than 30 menagerie figures take their place in the history of carousels and provide an opportunity to enjoy rare and unusual carousel animals from private collections throughout the country.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum
301 Jackson Street
Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Please visit the Blue Star Museums website for more information about the program and to find participating museums.

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