Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry to Decommission Popular 50-Year-Old Exhibit

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

It's the end of an era for a long-running, popular exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry that has charmed countless children and families.

But the good news is, you may be able to take a piece of the big top home.

According to a press release, archives from The Zweifel Circus Collection are set to be auctioned off Saturday. Included in that collection, the release says, are objects and artifacts from the "longest-running circus exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry," which is set to be decommissioned this month.

“The Museum of Science and Industry’s circus exhibit has delighted guests for more than 50 years," a statement from Kathleen McCarthy, director of Collections and Head Curator at MSI, said. "The circus exhibit provides a nostalgic look back at a bygone era and showcased the magic, wonder and effort associated with the ‘circus coming to town.'"

The museum exhibit, a favorite among families, debuted in 1973 and features an expansive scale-model miniature circus big top, sideshow, street parade, interactive displays and more, the release says.

One of the most popular parts of the exhibit up for auction is a 33-foot "Ringling Brothers Circus Street Parade Motorized Diorama," featuring 26 carved models of circus wagons, performers and animals recreated in miniature, all moving on a long, snake-like winding track.

According to auction house Potter & Potter, the diorama is estimated at $5,000- $10,000.

Another item from the museum's circus exhibit up for auction is a mechanical coin-operated wagon and big cat display. Built in 1935, the wooden circus wagon showcases "two snarling fabric-covered big cat models behind the barred sides," worth an estimated $3,000-$6,000.

When a dime is deposited, the release says, the big cats roar.

Other items from the museum's circus exhibit up for auction include an animatronic donkey display that was also used as a museum “tour guide” for the MSI's Pioneer Zephyr train exhibit, a circus menagerie motorized diorama, and the MSI's Circus Exhibit sign, worth an estimated $1,000-$2,000.

According to the release, each of the letters in the wooden sign is carved to represent the carnival theme -- with one letter a circus wagon wheel, another a standing clown, and then an elephant, snake charmer, contortionist and tiger.

According to the release, "The Zweifel's archives were home to tens of thousands of documents, photographs, and relics, including correspondence and memorabilia, as well as circus and wild west costumes, posters, and banners. Among the featured lots will be objects and documents from the life and career of Tom Thumb and Buffalo Bill, as well as P.T. Barnum, and nearly every "greatest show on earth" of the last century."

The auction is set to take place Sept. 24 at Potter & Potter's gallery, located at 50001 W. Belmont Ave. All lots are currently available and bidding began Sept. 1.

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