Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
6 Bourne Place
Storrs, CT 06269
Frank Ballard was the first professor to teach puppetry classes at UConn in 1964, and it is the only university in the country that offers masters degrees in the subject. So it’s fitting that there is an on-campus museum named after him devoted to the craft. There is quite the assortment of hand puppets and marionettes from all over the world, some cuddly, some bizarre. The art of shadow puppetry is demonstrated as well. And if your kids are creeped out by some of the museum’s puppets, there is an area for them to create their own.
230 Main St.
Terryville, CT 06786
It would be quite ironic if this place were ever broken into since it carries over 20,000 locks. Except for some keys, that is all you’ll find at this Terryville museum. The locks are grouped by manufacturer (there are rooms featuring locks made by Connecticut’s Eagle Lock Company and Yale Lock Company between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries) or purpose (the Bank Lock room contains locks for banks, safes and vaults). The museum possesses the largest collection of colonial era locks in the country. And if you have ever wondered what the world’s largest padlock looks like, well, you know where to go.
175 Union St.
Waterbury, CT 06706
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Timex company (which began as the Waterbury Clock Company) can be found in this museum. Plenty of clocks, wristwatches and pocket watches from different eras are on display. One exhibit pays tribute to the old Timex commercials with newsman John Cameron Swayze demonstrating how the watches still work after being tied underwater to a running boat motor. Visitors can watch the classic spots then try the motor test themselves. Strangest of all is the “Time Tunnel” which leads you to a seemingly unrelated room devoted to Easter Island.
144 W Main St.
Waterbury, CT 06702
This museum-within-a-museum is the perfect place for those who don’t take for granted the tiny clothes fasteners we use almost every day. Housed inside the Mattatuck Museum, the Waterbury Button Museum displays thousands of the little things. There are buttons from several different countries and from different centuries, including, for historical significance, four from a uniform worn by George Washington. And lest you think all buttons are round, you’ll find some in the shape of objects like dogs and sailboats.
800 Main St.
Hartford, CT 06103
Painter Joseph Steward founded his “Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities” in Hartford in the 1790s to display his collection of rare and unusual specimens. Today that museum is recreated in the capital city’s Old State House (its first home until 1808). The exhibit, which includes an albino snake, giant crocodile and a mummy’s hand, combines Steward’s original artifacts with newer examples. Among the latter is a stillborn, two-headed calf imported from a Michigan farm in 1996.
Related: Top Historical Sites In Connecticut
Joshua Palmes is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on Examiner.com.