Who We Are

Puppets by Frank Ballard

About the Ballard Institute

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is one of America’s hidden treasures—a superb collection of over 3,500 puppets from all over the world; an archive of books, manuscripts, posters, drawings, audio-visual materials and photographs all covering the history of puppetry. It is also the new home of the Puppeteers of America’s Audio-Visual Collection: the largest collection of videotapes, films, and other media about puppetry in the United States. The Ballard Institute curates and produces exhibitions of puppetry, both at the Ballard Museum and for touring across the United States. The Institute also offers workshops, museum tours, artists’ forums, film showings, performances, and other events and programs that promote the art of puppetry as a twenty-first-century art form with deep historic and global roots.


The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (BIMP) was established for the purpose of promoting public recognition of puppetry as an art form through the preservation and exhibition of puppets created by Frank W. Ballard on the campus of the University of Connecticut.

By expanding this collection to include the work of other puppeteers; by maintaining permanent records; by preserving the heritage and traditions of the art of puppetry; by providing the residents of Connecticut, and others, with a unique source of entertainment and education, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry shall offer a continuing variety of puppetry events for all ages.


In 1987 UConn Puppet Arts alumni and community supporters of Frank Ballard created the Puppet Preservation Committee to maintain and preserve the puppets Frank Ballard had designed, built, and collected. In 1989, the Committee was combined with a Dramatic Arts Department program Professor Ballard had begun, the National Institute and Museum of Puppetry; and in 1992 the program was re-named the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and in 1996 the Institute moved to a location on the University of Connecticut Depot Campus. In March 2014, the Ballard Institute moved into a brand-new location in Storrs Center and offers workshops, museum tours, lectures, forums, performances, and other programs that promote the art of puppetry.

Frank Ballard (1929 – 2010)

“A puppet is the artist’s soul set free.”
-Frank Ballard
Puppeteer, Designer/Director, Teacher

In 1956, Frank W. Ballard was appointed to the faculty of what was then the Department of Speech and Drama. He was hired as the Set Designer and Technical Director of the new Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater. At that time, there were five professors in the Department.

In 1962 the Drama, Art and Music Departments merged to form the School of fine Arts. With the creation of a graduate program in Drama, Professor Ballard added puppetry to the University of Connecticut’s curriculum offerings.

Classes in Puppetry were first taught in 1964. The popularity of these classes necessitated the addition of extra class sections. After three years, the department had to limit the class enrollment because of inadequate classroom facilities and the inability of one professor to oversee so many students.

More than 400 student puppet productions have been presented since 1964.

The Mikado (1968), designed by Mr. Ballard, was the first full-length puppet production to be presented in Jorgensen Theatre as part of the Department of Dramatic Arts’ season. With the intention of introducing the audience to the scope of puppetry, all types of puppets were utilized.

Frank Ballard’s puppet productions include:

MACBETH (1961, television)
HANSEL AND GRETEL (1962, television)
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (1963, puppet sequences only, University of CT)
PEER GYNT (1963, Hotchkiss School)
CARNIVAL (1966, puppet sequences only, University of Connecticut)
THE MIKADO (1968, University of Connecticut)
SAMPSON AND DELILAH (1969, University of Connecticut)
THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES (1970, University of Connecticut)
PEER GYNT (1971, Fine Arts Festival)
PETROUCHKA (1971, Nashville Symphony), (1972, Hartford Symphony)
KISMET (1975, University of Connecticut)
FROM THE TOP (puppet sequences only, Channel 24 TV, Hartford, CT)
TWO BY TWO (1976, University of Connecticut, State Capitol, CT and National Festival)
THE GOLDEN COCKEREL (1977, University of Connecticut)
THE FANTASTICKS (1979, puppet design and direction only, University of Connecticut)
THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG (1980, University of Connecticut)
BABES IN TOYLAND (1982, University of Connecticut)
PIPPIN (1983, University of Connecticut)
THE BLUE BIRD (1984, University of Connecticut)
THE MAGIC FLUTE (1986, University of Connecticut and Wesleyan University)
H.M.S. PINAFORE (1989, University of Connecticut and M.I.T.)

Frank Ballard with puppets, created by Bil Baird and Sergei Obratsov. Part of the museum’s diverse collection. Photograph by Fran Funk
Frank Ballard with puppets, created by Bil Baird and Sergei Obratsov. Part of the museum’s diverse collection. Photograph by Fran Funk