The Lost Museum Archive

Imagine Yourself as P.T. Barnum

In this exercise, students can explore the virtual American Museum with the goal of gathering information on the actual museum's proprietor, P. T. Barnum, and writing a point-of-view monologue by the Great Showman.

Your task:
First you should read the Historical Context section of How to Use This Site of The Lost Museum. Then read the text of Barnum's monologue (below). Next, search the Archive for documents about Barnum or written by him; to do this, go to the Archive Search page and check the boxes for Text (under Type of Document) and P. T. Barnum (under Theme). This will return about forty documents; you do not need to read all of them, but choose some that seem interesting, and try to choose at least one document written by Barnum and one document written about Barnum.

More information about the American Museum can be found in Background Essay on Barnum's American Museum

Put yourself in Barnum's position. Remember that, as P. T. Barnum, you are now in nineteenth-century New York City. Write a new monologue for Barnum. The subject might be his thoughts about ways to attract an audience to his museum; or Barnum might discuss a particularly interesting exhibit in the museum; or think up your own topic for the monologue.

Barnum's monologue:
I've called you here tonight, after hours, because I'm worried. I am loath to reveal the source of my knowledge, but I'm sure danger is near. There may be a fire, very soon!

Why should you believe me? I am the object of great admiration, but also of calumny. There are the Copperheads who hate me for supporting the Union, and the Abolitionists who hate me even though I support the Union. There are the men of science who hate me because I am a purveyor of knowledge, and the Bowery roughs who hate me because I've turned respectable. And, yes, there are certain disgruntled former employees who hate me even though my reputation for generosity is legion.

And there are enemies within as well! The danger may lurk in a rotted timber or a wayward flame! Why, some say I may be the source of catastrophe! But, mark my words, on the morrow, something terrible will happen.

I would investigate the matter myself, but I am due to address the Connecticut legislature tomorrow. In my stead, here is the key to the Museum. You must search the place! Tonight!