Mobile Carnival Museum
The Mobile Carnival Museum is a showcase of Mardi Gras history, completely dedicated to telling and showing the rich traditions and pageantry of America’s original Mardi Gras.
Opened in 2005, the museum is housed in the historic Bernstein-Bush house, which The Mobile Carnival Association leased when it became available in the early 2000s. The MCA coordinated the efforts of hundreds of volunteers – historians, artists, lawyers, businesspeople, architects, seamstresses, and more – to procure appropriate authentic memorabilia and props for the museum. Families of past Mardi Gras monarchs shared royal robes, crowns, and scepters. Local mystic organizations generously donated emblem costumes, favors, doubloons, and more.
The museum houses 14 gallery rooms, including the Queen’s Gallery, where gowns, trains, and jewels worn by past Carnival queens are stored. Also found are different kinds of attire from flapper queens and jesters of well-known parading societies. The former carriage house of the Bernstein-Bush Mansion now contains interactive exhibits for visitors to enjoy, the most popular of which allows patrons to “ride” a Carnival float and throw doubloons from it.
The converted mansion is a registered historic building with burnished pine floors, ornate chandeliers in each room, and detailed crown moldings throughout. It’s the perfect setting for the MCM to highlight the history of Mardi Gras in its true birthplace.
Amble down hallways decorated with pictures and paintings and browse photographs that date to 1886. Learn the art of costume design and science of float construction. See for yourself the intricate designs of majestic crowns, scepters, and robes of past Mardi Gras monarchs. Relax in a theater for viewing the pageantry of past coronations, parades, and balls. Meet friends or colleagues in a den perfect for social gatherings.
Of course, there’s the Gift Shoppe, where visitors can splurge on customized favors, presents for wedding parties, and baby or wedding shower gifts. There’s also boutique carnival merchandise, selected artwork by local artists, and themed novelties. For children, there are Mardi Gras caps and tees, as well as specialized cups, doubloons, and jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets.
The museum gladly accommodates school tours and group tours, which can be arranged by appointment. It’s also a popular place for birthday parties, youth gatherings, reunions, wedding receptions, corporate functions, convention events, and, of course, Mardi Gras socials. In fact, the museum will host gatherings for nearly any special occasion.
Furthermore, the Mobile Carnival Museum is host to a unique series of plays from June 2012 through the rest of the year. These public plays are called the Mobile Mystery Dinners, and they are more than just a meal. Quite popular with locals and tourists alike, each meal is a ceremony that turns deadly. Dinner guests enjoy a great meal and try to solve a murder. Each meal ticket includes a tour of the museum, unlimited wine bar, a catered meal, and a play to see whodunit. Prizes are awarded to those who solve the murder. For more information, see www.mobilemysterydinners.com
The museum’s regular hours are 9:00 – 4:00, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. For 2012, it’s closed Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day Weekend (November 22-24), and Christmas (24-26).
The museum’s home page is www.mobilecarnivalmuseum.com. Visit it for more details.