Lisa Sweasy, Director of the Vent Haven Museum, the United States. Photo © Courtesy of the museum
1.What is your museum about and what is your work there?
The Vent Haven Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated solely to the art of ventriloquism. I am the curator of the museum and a director as well. The Vent Haven was originally a private collection and has been open to the public since 1973.
The collection houses more than 1000 ventriloquism dummies and puppets, as well as a massive archive of photographs, correspondence, books, publications, posters, and more.
2.What is the impact on your digital activity? Do you have tips to share with your colleagues?
We have several social media accounts, but with only one employee, it is difficult to focus on it. I admire those museums who have a dedicated social media person.
3.What advice would you give a visitor to fully discover your museum?
The museum is open by appointment only and all tours are guided. Visitors oftentimes take so many photographs that they miss out on the stories that go with the pieces. My advice to visitors is to engage with the tour guide.
The collection is so massive, there is no way to experience everything at one visit, so plan to return. For those specifically interested in ventriloquism, I highly recommend they attend our annual convention.
4.What are the future projects of your museum?
We are currently undergoing major construction. Our future projects will include installation of all new exhibits, continuing to expand our convention and tourism attendance, and continuing to acquire new pieces for the collection.
The Vent Haven Museum is located in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, south of Cincinnati, Ohio and was founded by William Shakespeare Berger (1878-1972), a local businessman and ventriloquist who became interested in ventriloquism after witnessing the show “The Great Harry Lester”, during a business trip to New York. The first puppet he bought was built by Louis Grannat and he named it Tommy Baloney.
Berger from 1910 until his death collected about 500 mannequins and since 1973 is the only museum in the world dedicated to the ventriloquists with more than a thousand figures from twenty countries and over hundreds of photographs and memorabilia such as replicas of figures used by Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell and Shari Lewis. There are original pieces used by Jimmy Nelson, Willie Tyler, Jay Johnson, Terry Fator, Jeff Dunham and Darci Lynne. Since 2009 Lisa Sweasy has been the director of the museum and since 2013 also the curator.