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Hand puppets, rod puppets, puppets from here, there and everywhere ... fairytale witches, ancient mythological gods and lively characters from children's television shows - a puppet collection is something like a window, through which we have a glimpse of the wealth of puppetry, its history and diversity, even though, once the curtain falls, the show is well and truly over.

This module invites you to explore the Canadian Museum of Civilization's puppetry collection as well as specific aspects of the art of puppetry. The Museum's collection, boasting more than 2,000 puppets and accessories, along with extensive archival material, is unique in its ability to illustrate important facets of puppet theatre in Canada.

To help you make your way through the collection and search the database, we have grouped the puppets and archival documents by Canadian artist or company, or by country, or by type of puppet, according to each theme.

Happy exploring !

The Puppet Collection of the
Canadian Museum of Civilization

In the West, puppet theatre has often been taken over by and limited to childhood. While it may be one of puppetry's favourite haunts, the ancient art of puppetry has a far greater reach. In all the world's cultures, puppetry exists in a multitude of forms, reaches a wide range of audiences, and remains highly diversified.

In Canada, although puppet theatre is not rooted in a long-established tradition, it is, nonetheless, increasingly recognized as an important form of artistic expression. Its history, however, remains relatively unknown. Long perceived as a minor art, puppet theatre has rarely been studied and its heritage remains fragile, in part because of the ephemeral nature of its productions. The development of a collection such as the Museum's thus enables us to begin a true exploration of this history of puppetry. What stories were told ... which types of puppet were used ... to whom were they presented? As we delve into the history of puppetry, we also begin to discover various aspects of a society: its mythology, its literature, its entertainment and its visual arts.

The transfer of the Ontario Puppetry Association (OPA) collection and its archival fonds in 1994 greatly enhanced the Museum's existing puppet collection. The impressive OPA collection of more than 1,600 puppets and accessories was amassed between 1958 and 1994, largely through gifts from puppeteers. The Museum's puppet collection, already home to the John Conway fonds, became the repository of one of the most important puppetry collections in the country.