The money was presented by Feld Entertainment, producers of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, in honor of P.T. Barnum's 200th birthday Monday.The funds are intended to support the continued preservation of the famed showman's curiosities, ephemera and various artifacts. Among the pieces on display at the museum are a letter penned by the showman to Mark Twain, miniature carriages belonging to Tom Thumb and fellow performer Commodore Nutt, a 1,000-square-foot, 3/4-inch scale model of a five-ring circus, and an authentic 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.
"Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is P.T. Barnum's living legacy; however, it also is vital to support the collections of one of this country's most celebrated citizens," said Nicole Feld, executive vice president of Feld Entertainment and producer of Ringling Bros.
The gift is especially timely since a tornado struck the museum late last month.
A re-creation of the library from Barnum's first Bridgeport mansion, Iranistan, resides on the museum's first floor. Iranistan was destroyed by fire in 1857.
"Like all good museums, we had an emergency plan, but it's all about responding to warnings, and there were no warnings," Kathy Maher, executive director and curator of the Barnum Museum, told AOL News. "No one was prepared because it was so immediate."
As a result, there was no time to move or cover exhibits, and when windows were blown out, debris flew in and covered numerous parts of the collection.
"It was nothing catastrophic, just a lot of tedious restoration work to have done," said Kay Page Greaser, publicist for the Barnum Museum. "It only impacted the first floor, which is about P.T. Barnum's life and legacy and features some of the more special pieces of the collection."
Despite the museum's ongoing efforts to repair the damage, it plans to celebrate Barnum's birthday with cake and live entertainment this afternoon, as well as performances by the gift-giving clowns from Ringling Bros.
And that's just how Barnum would've wanted it, considering the way the impresario bounced back after several devastating fires to his museums and his Bridgeport home.
"The quote that embodies P.T. Barnum's spirit is, 'The noblest art is that of making others happy,' and I am confident he would be very happy with this gift," she added.
The donation was the culmination of a weekend filled with events around New York City hosted by Feld Entertainment to celebrate Barnum's milestone year.
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