For a world-class museum, Greater Cincinnati’s Vent Haven Museum attracts precious few visitors — about 900-1,200 a year. How to increase attendance is problematic since it raises the issue of what kind of place Vent Haven is meant to be.
It is the only major public museum devoted to ventriloquism (the art of throwing voices) and has more than 750 historic and/or unusual ventriloquial figures — colloquially and sometimes controversially known as “dummies.”
While it risks cliché to say this, the museum can legitimately be tagged a unique experience because of that. It regularly gets international attention. The New York Times last month did a major feature praising it (as well as another hard-to-see Greater Cincinnati museum, the American Sign Museum). National Public Radio has also featured it, and a Web site called Internationaltraveler.com listed it as one of the world’s 10 weirdest museums.
Vent Haven could hold potential interest as an art museum, a pop-culture/entertainment-history museum or an institution that uses its narrow subject as a way to tell the story of American social and political history. But Vent Haven’s site and crowd-capacity limitations hold down local visibility, outreach and attendance to the nonprofit museum, which occupies several secondary buildings at the Fort Mitchell, Ky., residence of the late ventriloquism enthusiast and businessman William Shakespeare Berger.
The museum is open for guided tours by appointment only from May through September. Get more information and read Steve Rosen's feature here.