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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Oldies... but goodies! » » Magic Museum (5 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Theodore Lawton
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I'm posting this here because I feel some of the old-timers with more knowledge come around here. I'm hoping this is something that sparks interest and snowballs into something real.

It seems that a lot of magic is being lost. Whether it is through books going out of print, effects no longer being produced, or what have you; lots of good old material is being lost to time.

Case in point: I was waiting to buy a copy of the Card Magic of Paul Lepaul until I had a few extra bucks and last night I searched the internet in vain trying to find an available copy.

Bill Hegbli posted in Smooth as Silk about a lost version of Double 20th Century silks.

I'm sure that the old-timers around here have seen more magic "vanish" than I've even yet attempted to study.

I feel that this is terrible, horrible news and we, or even I, should do something about it.

I know that some wealthy magicians have great personal collections, but there has to be a way to gather and collect as much about our art as possible into one archiveable, researchable museum. Something that future generations of magicians young and old can access to relearn, and learn from, the forgotten magic of the past.

This has been on my mind a lot lately. What do you think? Is there a way to set something like this up? Maybe a place where collections can be donated instead of auctioned off postmortem, where we all know it will not only be appreciated, but available for research and access so that it isn't lost or collecting dust in Copperfield's warehouse.

I'm passionate enough about this to consider starting it up in my own home. I live in Arizona where the climate is conducive to long term storage. It's dry here!

If we get enough people on board we could have a web site, catalog, and even an actual museum. One that is open to all serious magicians who need the information.

It's a shame to see all this stuff just disappearing.

Theodore-
jay leslie
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It's already set-up. All it takes is research and possibly a good mentor but since most of the new guys want the latest self-working, automatic, push button magic, there isn't a monetary reason to produce classic magic. The people who have control of all the good stuff are in the collectors groups and not hard to find if you're interested. (thayer magic forum)

I'm also going to make a prediction here. I think that in the next 20 years, animal magic will be a thing of the past. I see a trend where it won't be politically correct to produce a rabbit, around the corner.

So, let's see what's vanished from the magic world. Full evening shows (due to the movie industry that we helped get started), The circus in general (people will pay good money for the DuSole style but less and less for traditional), Big shows with colorful props (hopefully the street magic trend will evolve when the economy picks up), Corporate Shows (Thank you to all the CEOs who said "pay me another 20 million and I'll raise the bottom line by cutting waste), Silk tricks and water tricks (people don't want to spend time setting up, they brag about carrying their show in a paper bag and it works for 10 people or 1500), Agents, (a double edged sword), Dove acts, in general, and anyone who isn't internet savvy, you can buy magic on a thursday and perform it saturday - and - weather your performance is good or not is less important then weather you come-up first in the search engines... and your price is low.

So I hope that answers a few questions, even if it's just my opinion.
Wizard of Oz
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There are "magic museums" out there already. I'm sure some are legit, others may be tax shelters. And many magic organizations have archives, libraries, and extensive collections. But you're right, no real iconic Magic Museum, like the Football or Baseball Halls of Fame, or The Rock Hall. And aside from it being a great resource for magicians, I'm convinced it could be a commercial success. I was fortunate to have been involved with the launch of the International Spy Museum in Washington DC (our company designed the logo and grand opening graphics). It's important because it was the first "for profit" museum in DC. And it is quite successful even though the subject matter is obscure...but it's provocative, and so is magic. (Side note...the same developers who launched the Spy Museum once talked about another project...a museum of the paranormal...how cool would that have been? I think it was shelved). My point...if there was a big backer and collector (uh, is Copperfield reading this?), I believe the project could be a large attraction, in a large venue, and attract a lot of visitors. The same museum could also have a more serious mission to tend to the very issues you write about Theodore...and the money from proceeds to back it.
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Theodore Lawton
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That's exactly what I'm thinking Wizard. There could be a public museum to attract interested visitors whose admission fees would fund the cost of maintaining the museum and then serious magicians could do research there as well. Less magic would be lost and I think it could really benefit the art.

Smile
hugmagic
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Ok..Time to chime in on this.
First one of the problems of a Magic Museum is that magic is basically to be kept a secret. It is hard to show magic to john Q Public without exposing it. There is a lot of really clever principles and apparatus around. But do we really want to expose it.
Second, the market is limited so financially it is tough to make a go of it.
What is the option....Each of us work in our own way to archive and preserve the magic. It is passed onto those who are ready for the knowledge. Not just passed out willy nilly.
For instance, has anyone bothered to take Potter's index to Magic in Print and digitized it into a searchable format. It was written in the late 1960's. Since then there has been an explosion of magic literature in books, magazines, and videos. It was a searchable index that was originally published in the Linking Ring and then put together in three ring binders by Mickey Hades.
Chuck Stanfield and I had talked about this years ago. If each guy would take a section and updated and digitize it then it could be all reassembled into a comprehensive usable form. I really don't care about all the 4 ace trick but maybe you do. I like the flower stuff or silk stuff.
A lot of these old manuscripts and books have been digitized by the Learned Pig project, Conjuring Arts Center, and Lybrary.
It is a monumental project but if broken up into small sections, it is doable.
Right now I am working on a collection with over 4,000 pieces of apparatus, 1500 posters, 150 complete periodical files, Token, cards, and over 20,000 pieces of Emphemera. It is all going into Filmaker Pro with photos, instructions, authentication, and in some cases videos. When it is complete, it will be the type of archival record you are talking about.

Back to your original Museum idea, you would need more than admission charge to keep the doors open. The SAM is trying to put something together like this but is is having growing pains also. It needs to have a performance area (100 seat or so) for public shows and sell normal public retail trade items to keep the doors open. It has to be located in a spot where there is a lot of traffic to get people to go to it. There are a lot of problems that have been dealt with time and time again in this type of museum from the Magic Castle to the Magic Circle that people have been working on solving for years.


Richard
Richard E. Hughes, Hughes Magic Inc., 352 N. Prospect St., Ravenna, OH 44266 (330)296-4023
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Theodore Lawton
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I'm glad to hear people are working on it.

I think there is enough historical information about magic to have a museum for the public that doesn't reveal secrets. But the idea of a performance area is great, maybe more than one. And a retail gift shop is a must. And most likely a restaurant and lounge.

Possibly Vegas or near a theme park like Disney would be workable.

Richard- thank you for your efforts to undertake such a huge task. Is there any way I can get in touch with people to help in some way? I'm a SAM member.
Wizard of Oz
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Quote:
On Nov 25, 2014, hugmagic wrote:
Back to your original Museum idea, you would need more than admission charge to keep the doors open. The SAM is trying to put something together like this but is is having growing pains also. It needs to have a performance area (100 seat or so) for public shows and sell normal public retail trade items to keep the doors open. It has to be located in a spot where there is a lot of traffic to get people to go to it. There are a lot of problems that have been dealt with time and time again in this type of museum from the Magic Castle to the Magic Circle that people have been working on solving for years.
Richard


Great insights Richard, and thank you sincerely for your project and contributions. We will all benefit from your hard work, both now and in the future.

I'm not a museum or attraction planner/developer...I've only been a part of a greater team that supports them...but I have seen these folks in action on more than one occasion, and I would imagine a magic museum would be a dream attraction from them. You're right, the challenges regarding entertainment, deception, and method would be many, but similar in many ways to those issues faced with the Spy Museum...trade secrets. And what trade secrets are old, tired, and over-exposed enough to be sacrificed as a "valuable" reveal for visitors.

The Spy Museum worked very carefully with the right people to make sure stories were told correctly and security regarding the trade was maintained. If they can do it, I think we can too. The big advantage we have is...entertainment! Rather than focusing on secrets (and that will definitely need to be part of the equation), what if the museum was performance driven? From the moment a visitor arrives to the time they leave, they are bombarded with magic and amazement. Sure, there will be props and artifacts for study, ephemera for contemplation...but the main focus would center on being amazed.
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sleightly
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Re: Potter's Index...

The Conjuring Arts Research Center has a digitized set of the Potter's Index as separate PDF files per topic. Not sure what level you need to be to access it. I have a set on my hard-drive and hope to compile it at some point. It is a wonderful resource but is also just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that Micky Hades expanded on it at some point, but not sure what happened to the digital files he produced. One rumor was that they had been lost in a hard-drive fail...

I like the idea of featuring historic performances (it is one of the things I do for hire) that inform on earlier generations of performers, but the vast majority of things that were produced commercially were never really intended for a professional act... We have a lot of navel-gazing that I wouldn't want to subject audiences to. I have been fortunate (as have Richard) to visit some of the great collections and while impressive, for the most part, they strike me as lacking narrative.

I would love to attend something like you've discussed, but so much is available already online: googlebooks has a remarkable quantity of digitized magic books for free, then AskAlexander.com, Denis Behr's Conjuring Archive, and all the wonderful eBooks that have been released over the years (including lybrary.com, one of the largest eBook e-Tailers out there). What we need is to see more of it put into practice in thoughtful, respectful ways to enagage and encourage audiences to desire more magical experiences (and willing to pay for them)...
Dick Oslund
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Have any of you visited the Bob Lund Magic Museum in Marshall, Michigan?

Bob was a very dear friend. Over the years, he collected rare items, like Houdini's Milk Can Escape, Doug Henning's Zig Zag, Harry Blackstone Sr.'s Jam Illusion,etc. They are on display with posters, amall props, etc. Since Bob died, the old city library has been purchased, and Bob's phenomenal library will be moved there, if it hasn't been moved already! (I have not been able to visit for almost ten years.

Nothing is exposed!!! A small admission fee is charged. I

Bob and Jay Marshall had an agreement that whoever outlived the other would inherit the other's library. I've not visited since Jay passed away, When they were both living, I had carte blanche privilege to use both libraries.

To give you a slight idea of rare books that Jay possessed,he had an EXPURGATED COPY of a Carl Jones publication called "GREATER MAGIC".

When I first visited, Bob showed me a row of filing cabinets in the basement. He said that he had "something" on EVERY magician, known, filed. I asked: "PRINCE NOTAES MAJAHARA?" Bob said, "WHO?" I sent him material on Majahara. I had seen him perform in 1951 in Norfolk, Va in the Naval Base Theater. For almost 50 years,I tried to find out more about him. Finally, Bev Bergeron recognized the name. We collaborated, and Bev wrote Majahara's story in Linking Ring.

If you ever get to Lower Michigan, be sure to visit.
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Theodore Lawton
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That sounds great Dick.
sleightly
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You should all check out the Houdini Scrapbooks that were digitized by The Harry Ransom Center in Austin, TX:

http://hrc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landin......#nav_top

Cool stuff and hours of research gold...
Ba Ba Booey
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Dick Oslund's suggestion of visiting the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan is a wonderful one. I visited that museum last year and was quite impressed. It's also a short drive to Colon, Michigan (the magic capital of the world). I highly recommend going to the AMM. The folks who work there are very nice and will try to answer any questions you might have, too. I brought my family with me (non-magicians), and they really enjoyed it, too.

http://www.americanmuseumofmagic.org/index.htm
MJE
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Isn't the SAM putting a museum together? I seem to recall fund-raising efforts for it. After the Houdini gravesite fiasco, though, I dunno......
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