$10,000 in grants to help preserve puppets from ‘The Sound of Music’ in Mason City

Grants to help preserve puppets from ‘The Sound of Music’

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(ABC 6 News) – If you have seen ‘The Sound of Music,’ you probably have a favorite part. What you might not know is this iconic movie has connections to the Hawkeye State.

When you take a stroll through the River City, there’s a man and a name you might not recognize – Bil Baird. His creation, including these puppets, always turns heads.

“Bil Baird, at the time, was probably, arguably, some people would say was more famous than Jim Henson during his actual time period,” said Editih Blanchard, Director at the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum.

Baird has designed dozens of puppets throughout his career. Many, making it under a worldwide spotlight.

“They were not always stored in the best way because they were always, not necessarily thought of as being historically significant.”

A goat herder, along with his goats, and a prince, are getting a second chance at life. Two grants from the Chautauqua Circuit #889 Questers chapter of the Iowa Questers in addition to two Preservation and Restoration Grants from International Questers totaled $10,420 in funds. Helping to fund a trip to the Midwest Conservation Center for these puppets to be conserved.

The puppets came to the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum in the late 80s. Over the years, the puppets have climbed every mountain.

“A lot of times if [Baird] needed a puppet and had a puppet that would work for a different show, he would re-outfit it and maybe rework it to go into the next show,” Mara Linskey-Deegan, Associate Curator & Registrar at the museum, explained.

The puppets have traveled across the globe and have even been on display for The Walt Disney Company. Their worldly adventures have made conserving each puppet, a few thousand dollars.

“We did not do a restoration…What we do is a conservation,” added Blanchard.

There’s been efforts to conserve the puppets before. As a city entity, the museum can’t use tax-payer dollars to preserve artifacts.

“Like a joint was coming undone, strings were coming undone, those were prepared in accordance with how they should look originally and function originally. The puppets actually still function even though we don’t use them. They inherently need to have moving limbs and things like that which makes it a little bit more difficult to do conservation work,” Blanchard explained.

(Photographic Archive at the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum)

Difficult work which Linskey-Deegan says pays off in the long run.

“Almost everybody from little ones to folks up in their 80s and 90s just says, ‘Oh my goodness, I love this movie.’ ‘This is such a great movie, for ‘The Sound of Music.” So it’s neat to see people’s faces when they see the displays.”

The museum has over 600 puppets donated by Baird and they are rotated regularly. The museum is always looking for funding to help conserve the puppets.”