Jim Henson's characters provided an outlet for the various sides of his sense of humor and personality, and Henson always considered Kermit his alter ego. This Kermit, shown with Henson about 1989, is a more polished version of the original Kermit that Henson made in 1955 from his mother's old spring coat.  John E. Barrett


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

This exhibition toured from 2007-2012.

  The incredibly prolific mind of Jim Henson (1936-90) was a veritable celebration of ideas for wondrous creatures and characters, stories, songs, and imagery. From the earliest age, Henson drew pictures, wrote jokes, built mobiles, and planned whole worlds. He thought in three dimensions and experimented in a huge variety of media.

Quote about Jim Henson

He was fascinated with how ideas are formed, how they interconnect in the mind, and how they can be shared through the visual and performing arts.

Organized with The Jim Henson Legacy, Jim Henson's Fantastic World offers audiences a rare peek into the imagination of this brilliant innovator and creator of Kermit, Big Bird, and other beloved characters. The exhibition documents Henson’s process of “visual thinking” through works of art, photographs, documents, puppets and other 3-D objects, and film and video clips. Museums may create a separate activity center with the educational and interactive resources provided.

This exhibition is made possible by The Biography Channel. Additional support has been provided by The Jane Henson Foundation and Cheryl Henson.

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Exhibition Specifications

Contents 100 framed works of art, photographs, documents, puppets, additional objects, floor and wall cases, 3 videos (5 min. each) with equipment, 20-min. video, illustrated timeline, text panels, labels
Supplemental Brochure, educational, and promotional resources
Category Art
SITES Contacts Michelle Torres-Carmona, 202.633.3143 (Scheduling)
Toured through March 2012
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Tour itinerary

Dates   Host Institution Status
9/7/2007 11/25/2007 Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR Booked
12/15/2007 3/9/2008 Arizona Museum for Youth, Mesa, AZ Booked
3/27/2008 6/22/2008 Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Baton Rouge, LA Booked
7/12/2008 10/5/2008 International Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC Booked
10/25/2008 1/18/2009 Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, GA Booked
2/7/2009 5/3/2009 Orange County Regional History Center, Orlando, FL Booked
5/23/2009 8/16/2009 Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum, Seattle, WA Booked
9/12/2009 11/29/2009 James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA Booked
12/19/2009 3/14/2010 Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS Booked
4/3/2010 6/27/2010 National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA Booked
9/24/2010 1/23/2011 Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL Booked
02/12/11 05/01/11 Lakeview Museum of Art and Science, IL Booked
07/16/11 03/04/12 Museum of the Moving Image, New York Booked
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Related Publications

Jim Henson's Fantastic World
Full-color exhibition brochure, 2007. Developed in conjunction with the traveling exhibition.

>> Download

Jim Henson Fantastic World, brochure

Jim Henson's Fantastic World
Spanish gallery guide, 2008. Get a complete tour of the exhibition in Spanish; Developed in conjunction with the traveling exhibition.

>> Download

Jim Henson's Fantastic World Spanish guide
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Press Release


Magic of Jim Henson’s Imagination Celebrated in Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition

“Jim didn’t think in terms of boundaries at all the way the rest of us do. There are always these fences we build around ourselves and our ideas. Jim seemed to have no fences.”

— Jon Stone, Sesame Street producer and director

Without “fences” to limit where his imagination could roam, Jim Henson (1936-1990)—artist, puppeteer, film director and producer—created elaborate imaginary worlds filled with unique characters, objects, environments and even languages and cultures. His work is enjoyed in dozens of languages in more than 100 countries. Jim Henson’s Fantastic World, a new exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and The Jim Henson Legacy, offers a rare peek into the imagination and creative genius of this multitalented innovator and creator of Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and other beloved characters.

Jim Henson’s Fantastic World will premiere at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock Sept. 7. It will remain on view through Nov. 25 and will then continue on a 10-venue national tour through 2010.

The exhibition features 100 original artworks, including drawings, cartoons and storyboards that illustrate Henson’s talent as a storyteller and visionary. Among the variety of exhibition objects are puppets and television and movie props, photographs of Henson and his collaborators at work and original video productions, including excerpts from Henson’s early career and experimental films.

“It’s such a treat to get to know Jim Henson through his doodles and drawings, his puppets and his fantastic performances,” said Karen Falk, curator of the exhibition and archivist at the The Jim Henson Company. “I’m delighted to be able to share this inspiring and entertaining experience with people all over the country. Seeing his original work firsthand opens a window into his visual thinking and provides both an appreciation of Jim as an artist and a reason to laugh out loud.”

From the very beginning, Henson expressed his ideas with incredible bursts of invention, through a variety of visual forms, clever dialogue, songs, comic bits and animation. All of his work reveals a highly sophisticated and nuanced thought process, evident in the decades-long metamorphosis of a small group of captivating characters from simple doodles to cartoons to puppets to films. What began as a one-man enterprise eventually grew into an international phenomenon. As time passed, the simple hand puppets Henson created for his first television show, “Sam and Friends,” evolved into increasingly more sophisticated characters—from the Muppets of “The Muppet Show,” “ Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock” fame to the larger-than-life fantasy creatures of “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.”

Jim Henson’s Fantastic World is organized by The Jim Henson Legacy and SITES, in cooperation with the Henson Family; The Jim Henson Company; The Muppets Studio, LLC; and Sesame Workshop. The exhibition is made possible by The Biography Channel. Additional support has been provided by The Jane Henson Foundation and Cheryl Henson.

The Biography Channel is a 24-hour digital cable network dedicated to presenting compelling stories about the world’s most interesting people. One of the most sought after and fastest growing channels available today, The Biography Channel presents vibrant profiles of intriguing individuals, plus exciting new original series, short features and documentaries. For more information, visit www.biography.com.

Established in 1993, The Jim Henson Legacy was created by family and friends in response to the extraordinary interest in the life and work of Jim Henson. The organization is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating Henson’s contributions to the worlds of puppetry, television, motion pictures, special effects and media technology. By making Henson’s creative body of work available to the public through presentations and exhibits, the Legacy will share the power of Henson’s art and imagination and his positive view of life with generations to come.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.

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Exhibition Specs

Tour Itinerary

Exhibition Images

Exhibition Website

Exhibition Prospectus

Related Publications

Press Release


Nutty Bird, 1966. Copyright 2011 The Jim Henson Company. All rights reserved.


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