The Ringling Museum Opens THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH GALLERY® – An Immersive, Family-Friendly Exploration of Fifty Years of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey™ - CircusTalk

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The Ringling Museum Opens THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH GALLERY® – An Immersive, Family-Friendly Exploration of Fifty Years of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey™

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling) Circus Museum’s next act,The Greatest Show On Earth Gallery is an engaging and multisensory experience of fifty years of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey – starting in the 1960s – with its newest permanent exhibition space for Children Of All Ages, premiering on Saturday, April 6th, 2024 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  

This latest addition to the museum celebrates the era of modern circus that began with Irvin Feld’s purchase ofRingling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in 1967.The Greatest Show On Earth Gallery modernizes the museum’s expansive circus history by exploring the first fifty years of the Feld Family’s stewardship, during which the spectacle brought the circus experience to new heights.   

“This exhibit will serve as a dynamic testament to the vitality and innovation of modern circus,” says Steven High, executive director of The Ringling. “We are thrilled to finally have permanent gallery space dedicated to theRingling Bros. and Barnum & BaileyCircus era that many visitors remember.” 

The new exhibit continues the story, found throughout the Circus Museum, of how Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey grew to become one of the most well-recognized brands in the world. The gallery space is designed to evoke the excitement of seeing a live show, while also representing the full spectrum of the production experience from both front- and back-of-house perspectives. Visitors can explore artifacts, costumes, and media footage in an engaging and multisensory experience throughout the exhibition area. 

The Experience 

Located at the culmination of a timeline of the history of circus in America, an authenticRingling Bros.and Barnum & Baileymarquee will draw visitors to the entry portal toThe Greatest Show On Earth Gallery. Once inside, visitors can explore the four sections of the exhibit at their own pace:  

  • Introduction to the Feld Family’s Stewardship of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey – a combination of video, artifacts, and text introduce visitors to how three generations of the Feld Family have continued to re-invent the circus for modern times. 
  • Evolution of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & BaileyMoving behind the curtain, visitors find original costumes, props and design documents representing the variety of talents that come together for every production. Interactive stations allow visitors to revisit many of the greatest acts to appear withRingling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in the last fifty years.  
  • The Show – The excitement, energy, and spectacle that defineThe Greatest Show On Earthinspired this innovative experience that presents a dynamic combination of video, lighting, and original circus wardrobe to showcase acts popular during the first fifty years of the Feld Family’s leadership.   
  • Memories of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey – As visitors leave The Show, they pass by a display of souvenirs and memorabilia representing decades of memories created for audiences ofRingling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey. 

Throughout the exhibit, many individual stories that are each a unique piece of the extraordinary history ofThe Greatest Show On Earthare represented – from one-of-a-kind artifacts like the marquee sign to moments of cultural importance (including the debut of Jonathan Lee Iverson as the first African American Ringmaster) and to the amazing and varied talents of five decades of circus artistry. 

An Innovative Museum Experience Inspired by the technologies that have helped The Greatest Show On Earth remain a leader in family entertainment, The Ringling Circus Museum recognized an opportunity to create an entirely new gallery experience for visitors. The new exhibit incorporates immersive sound and contemporary lighting to give visitors an experience of being behind the scenes

Motion-based interactives exploring the history of acts withRingling Bros.encourage visitors to be physically engaged in exploring content through fun animations and a wealth of images and videos. The culmination of this high-tech gallery experience is The Show, where visitors will marvel at the spectacular costumes, the dynamic feats of performers, and the countless details that come together in each edition ofThe Greatest Show On Earth.  

“As Feld Entertainment, Inc., relaunches the re-imaginedRingling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the history contained within the museum’s newest gallery is more relevant than ever,” says Lemmer Posey, the Tibbals Curator of Circus. “The Greatest Show On Earth Gallery provides an engaging introduction to the living history that has led to this newest edition ofRingling Bros. It is exciting to celebrate the talents that defined the first fifty years of The Feld Family’s leadership ofThe Greatest Show On Earthas a new era begins.” 


Fun for Families and Children of All Ages 

Beyond the new gallery, visitors will delight in a pop-up circus performance around the grounds on opening day. Families can also head to a tent with hands-on educational and creative activities, where children can choose from various creative projects, such as costume design art. Meanwhile, parents and all visitors can enjoy music and circus-themed food and beverages available for purchase.  

Don’t forget to explore The Ringling Museum’s other venues, including, but not limited to the following: 

  • The first floor of the Tibbals Learning Center featuring The Howard Bros. Circus Model (a miniature replica of Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Baileyas it traveled in the early 20th century under tents), posters, costumes, and more.  
  • Historic Circus Museum: the home of The Wisconsin (John and Mable’s private Pullman railroad car)  
  • Ca’ d’Zan (John and Mable Ringling’s bayfront home) 
  • The Ringling Museum of Art (featuring art ranging from European art from the medieval period to the 19th century to early photography to immersive contemporary installations and Asian art, along with an Italian-inspired courtyard)  
  • Mable Ringling’s lush rose garden is situated within 66 acres of bayfront grounds and gardens 
  • David F. Bolger Playspace (which boasts an audacious slide) 
  • Historic Asolo Theater (which hosts a variety of performances throughout the year) 
  • Art Library (Only open on weekdays, it is one of the largest and most comprehensive art research libraries in the southeastern United States) 


Event Details & Tickets 

The Greatest Show On Earth Gallery Grand Opening 
The Ringling Circus Museum, 2nd Floor of the Tibbals Learning Center 
Saturday, April 6th from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Eastern Time  Tickets are now available online and by calling 941-358-2757

On Opening Day, complimentary admission to both floors of the Tibbals Learning Center will be offered.  Timed tickets are required to enter The Greatest Show On Earth Gallery on opening day. A limited number of timed tickets are available. Ticket holders should check in at the Visitors Pavilion before the time noted on the ticket, allowing ample time to walk to the Gallery. If you choose to visit the Bayfront Gardens beforehand, we ask that you arrive at the Tibbals Learning Center at the time noted on your tickets. 

Beyond Opening Day, admission to The Greatest Show On Earth Gallery is included in regular museum admission, which is $25 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 17, and free for children under age 6.   

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