CBIA BizCast host Ali Warshavsky speaks with Barnum Museum executive director Kathleen Maher about the organization's battle to keep P.T. Barnum’s legacy alive through three natural disasters and a pandemic. 

In 2010, the museum in Bridgeport was hit by a tornado. Some of the 20,000 objects were soaked when the tornado tore through. The museum was then hit by hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy before it could fully be repaired.  

“There has not been a moment of rest trying to figure out a EF 1 tornado impact on nationally significant buildings, with collections,” said Maher.

Barnum had originally purchased the Main Street building to develop his own museum.  

Since 2012, a gallery has been open to show artifacts, but the goal is to raise enough money to reopen a brand new facility. That has been further postponed by the pandemic. 

P.T. Barnum was born in 1810 in Bethel and spent most of his life in Bridgeport. Not only did Barnum become the famous name behind the American circus, Maher spent time in the state General Assembly and had a goal to make Bridgeport a manufacturing hub.

Maher said Barnum faced five major fires in his career as well as a large financial setback. She said they have learned from his examples of how to persevere through the toughest times.

“The Barnum Museum has become not just a Connecticut or national, but a global model for disaster resilience and recovery,” said Maher. “I have spoken all over the world about it.”

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