July 12, 2015
The Coney Island Museum reminds me of the Side Show by the Seashore that it is connected to — part nostalgia, part wonder, and part hucksterism. This is in the museum tradition that goes back to P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, which was in New York almost 30 years before the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museums tells the history of Coney Island through artifacts, some wonderful, some shocking and some making you laugh at yourself for having paid to come in.
For another penny, you can use an old Mutoscope — like the ones that were common on the boardwalk around 1900 — and see an Edison movie of the electrocution of Topsy the elephant in 1903. As shocking as this image is, it reminds us of the sometimes brutal history both of amusements and of technology.
My favorite exhibit was “Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park: 3D Printed by the Great Fredini”. Fredini, a long time barker and MC at the sideshow has taken on an ambitious project to 3D print a 1:13 scale model of the 1914 Luna park with all its Hindu Temples, Pagodas, Japanese Gardens and Venetian canal. The park’s tower is over 7 feet tall. He is populating his park with contemporary denizens and visitors to Coney Island, which he scans at his Scan-A-Rama 3D scanning and printing studio.
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