Durham Museum to open Jim Henson exhibition

The Durham Museum Celebrates the Creative Vision of
Jim Henson in The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited

 Kermit the Frog (The Muppet Show), Ernie and Bert (Sesame Street), Jen and Kira (The Dark Crystal), plus ballroom costumes for Jareth and Sarah from Labyrinth featured in this exploration of the visionary entertainer’s work

 The Durham Museum is excited to announce the opening of The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited. Organized by Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), the exhibition will open on October 3, 2020, and remain on view through January 10, 2021. The traveling exhibition is a version of MoMI’s ongoing The Jim Henson Exhibition, which is on view at its home in New York City.

 The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited is a dynamic new visitor experience exploring Jim Henson’s groundbreaking work for film and television and his transformative impact on popular culture. This comprehensive exhibition reveals how Henson and his team of builders, performers and writers brought to life the enduringly popular worlds of The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and much more. It also includes material from Henson’s experimental film projects and his early work, presenting him as a restlessly creative performer, filmmaker and technical innovator.

The exhibition features a broad range of artifacts related to Henson’s unparalleled career, including more than 20 puppets, character sketches, storyboards, scripts, photographs, film and television clips, behind-the-scenes footage, iconic costumes and interactive experiences that allow visitors to try their hand at puppeteering on camera and designing a puppet character.

To safely accommodate all guests, each person visiting is highly encouraged to secure a ticket (for a specific date and arrival time) in advance at DurhamMuseum.org. The tickets will be available online on a first-come, first-served basis, and can be purchased 5 days in advance of visiting. The Jim Henson Exhibition is included with regular museum admission.

Imagination Unlimited begins with a brief look at Henson’s early life through images of Henson as a young man and reproductions of some of his early drawings and sketches, and then follows his steady rise and immense contributions to the art and industry of the moving image. Highlights include a Kermit the Frog puppet from 1978; handwritten scripts from Henson’s first television series, Sam and Friends (1955-1961); a clip from his Academy Award–nominated experimental film Time Piece (1965); Jen and Kira puppets from The Dark Crystal (1982); familiar Sesame Street puppets including Grover, Ernie, Bert, and Count von Count; plus costumes from Labyrinth (1986).

The exhibition prominently features an exploration of The Muppet Show (1976-1981) from a concept Henson first developed in the early 1960s to an internationally beloved series. This section features iconic puppets that helped define this world-wide brand, including Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, and Scooter, as well as material from the Muppets’ transition to the big screen, with set models and storyboards illustrating how sets were designed to accommodate puppets and performers.

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited is a traveling exhibition organized by Museum of the Moving Image (Astoria, New York) in cooperation with The Jim Henson Company, The Muppets Studio, and Sesame Workshop. The exhibition features puppets and other objects donated to the Museum by the family of Jim Henson, plus works on loan from The Jim Henson Company archives as well as from private lenders.

Exhibit supported by Mutual of Omaha, Cox Communications, Valmont Industries, Inc., Kiewit Corporation, HDR, Inc., The Hawks Foundation, Parker Family Foundation, Dillon Foundation, Douglas County, Nebraska, The Jane Henson Foundation and Kathi and Louie Rotella, Jr. Media support provided by KETV. Additional exhibit support provided by CCS Presentation Systems.

Exhibition Related Programming

Creating Characters: Behind the Scenes and On The Screen
Tuesday, November 10, 6:30-7:30PM
This virtual panel presentation features not one but three amazing talents who have all been a part of The Jim Henson Company since the 1970s. Moderated by Karen Falk, Archives Director for The Jim Henson Company, the panel will also feature:

  • Karen Prell: A celebrated performer who has worked with The Jim Henson Company for more than 40 years on numerous productions including the feature film Labyrinth. She is best known for her portrayal of Red Fraggle on the series Fraggle Rock.
  • Edward Christie: A multi-Emmy award winning puppet designer and builder since 1978 who headed the New York puppet workshop of The Jim Henson Company in the 1990s through 2004.  Ed has designed and/or built numerous memorable characters for a range of programs with a focus on Sesame Street and its various international versions.
  • Polly Smith: Starting with The Muppet Show more than 40 years ago, the Emmy-award winning costume designer Polly Smith has created remarkable wardrobes for dozens of Henson programs, films and photo shoots and continues to make elaborate costumes for Henson characters today.

 Puppets at The Platform
Fridays in November and December, 10AM-Noon
Join us each Friday at the Platform for a read aloud and craft related to The Jim Henson Exhibition. Visit our website for announcements regarding the theme for each week! Registration is not required, and this activity is included with museum admission.

 Remote Learner and Home School Days
October 14, November 11 and December 9; 10AM-Noon
$5/student or adult, registration is required
(Program not included with museum membership)
Learning from home this school year? Join us for a special series this fall celebrating The Jim Henson Exhibition. Each date will feature small group experiences in the exhibition, plus additional crafts and activities to make this a special day for students and families!

Party with a Puppet
Available October 3, 2020 – January 10, 2021
In addition to visiting The Jim Henson Exhibition, we will celebrate by reading a puppet themed story, creating your own puppet and putting on your own puppet show with your friends! Call 402-444-5027 to book your party today!