Searching for how to get to Sesame Street?
Look no further because a traveling multimedia exhibit of the works of The Muppets creator Jim Henson is coming to the Maryland Center for History and Culture (MCHC) next month.
“The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited” will be at MCHC from May 26, 2023 until Dec. 30, 2023.
MCHC views this as a homecoming of sorts, and on its website, describes the exhibition as “Bringing Henson Home to Maryland.”
“With his gently subversive humor, restless curiosity, and innovative approach to puppetry, Henson built the Muppets into an enduring international brand, contributed beloved puppet characters to Sesame Street, and made movies that applied his vivid imagination to stories for the big screen,” MCHC writes on their website about the impact of Henson’s work.
The center’s website promises a 5,000 square-foot space filled with “hundreds of objects, including puppets, character sketches, storyboards, scripts, costumes, and film and television clips.”
The permanent and traveling exhibits are owned by Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), who created them. The MCHC is hosting the Henson exhibit’s first showing on the East Coast, though it’s the 10th location visited across the nation. Maryland is the last scheduled stop for the exhibition at the moment.
MCHC has been partnering with MoMI for months to coordinate the exhibit’s opening, according to Scott Rubin, Vice President for Operations and Visitor Experience at MCHC. Rubin has been in touch with staff at all previous museums that have housed the exhibit in preparation.
The MCHC staff feels a special connection to the work and to Henson, who had deep Maryland roots. Marylanders and DC residents may remember the show “Sam and Friends,” created by Henson, which ran on local stations from 1955 through 1961.
Henson was born in Leland, Mississippi, but relocated to University Park, Maryland in fifth grade. He went to high school in Hyattsville, and attended University of Maryland, College Park, where he created Sam and Friends. College Park has a statue dedicated to Henson and Kermit the Frog on its campus.
Rubin expects visitors of all ages to have meaningful experiences visiting the exhibit, saying it, like many of Henson’s creations, appeals to people of all ages.
“Henson has been around for so long,” Rubin said. “Adults may get super-nostalgic, and kids today still watch Sesame Street. There are plenty of interactive things for kids to experience, as well.”
There will be a “Build-Your-Own-Muppet” station Rubin predicts will be a big hit.
At another station, children can watch a video of a Muppet — specially created just for this exhibit — sing a song. Then the children can learn how to operate the Muppet themselves and record their own voiceover, creating their own video of the Muppet singing the song with their own voice and movements.
Visitors will be able to see the progression of puppetry throughout the decades of Henson’s work, from when puppetry was not as sophisticated to the more advanced techniques used today.
While not every famous Henson character will be on display, Rubin wants fans to know there will be more to see than only “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock” puppets. There’s an in-depth section on “Sam and Friends,” foundational to Henson’s career. There will be lots to see from “The Dark Crystal,” the 1980s movie that saw a resurgence of popularity during the pandemic — so much so that Netflix partnered with The Jim Henson Company to create a prequel series called “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.“
Rubin wants David Bowie fans to rest assured that there will be an in-depth “Labyrinth” section of the exhibit, as well.
“Every staff member has had a pivotal role in one way or another,” Rubin told Baltimore Fishbowl of preparation, collaboration with MoMI, and creation of this exhibition. “This is an all-hands-on-deck effort. Everyone is all-in, and very excited for people to come experience it.”
There’s also a deep sense of the exhibition “coming home,” he told Fishbowl, given Henson’s Maryland ties, and having been the place from whence he launched his creative career.
MCHC will be housing the exhibit for more than seven months, more than triple the amount of time other museums have held it. They’re expecting visitors from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. to flock to the center, and have extended their hours to accommodate it.
Rubin strongly recommends securing tickets in advance. Tickets go on sale April 24 for members and May 15 for non-members. MCHC’s extended hours during the exhibit will be:
- Wednesday: 10 am – 5 pm
- Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
- Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
- Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
- Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm