Much like Busy Beaver is the only known button museum in the world, Vent Haven Museum holds the title of the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism. The museum was founded in 1973 in honor of the late William Shakespeare Berger. W.S. Berger dedicated his life to the art of ventriloquism and bringing together those with similar passions for this craft. The original location in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky houses over 800 ventriloquist figures, photographs, and other memorabilia with the ventriloquism art.
The museum holds a yearly convention, ConVENTion, which brings the community of ventriloquists enthusiasts together for a week of nightly shows, daily workshops, dealer rooms, and keynote lectures. Taking place in mid-July, Vent Haven’s ConVENTion rallies an attendance of over 600 enthusiastic ventriloquists from around the world.
The organizers of the show needed a way for new and seasoned attendees to find a way to break the ice on the first day of the conference. At the 2011 convention a button pack was given to each patron upon arrival. There were four button designs total, and each pack gifted included four identical buttons. “The idea was that you would walk around during the “get acquainted” party and meet new people and see which buttons they had, with the ultimate goal of trading buttons with people until you acquired a full set of the four different character buttons,”said Tom Ladshaw, a member of the Vent Haven Board of Advisors. Five years later and this game is still talked about at every convention. Ladshaw notes.
The ConVENTion also acts as an annual fundraiser for the museum to preserve and protect the integrity of the building and the dolls inside. Since 2013, Vent Haven Museum has utilized the 24k gold buttons for convention-goers to take home a limited edition button. Fifty of the solid gold buttons are ordered with the museum’s logo and year and can be purchased with a donation of $20 per button. The buzz for the golden buttons is created even in the registration line outside of the convention and with 120 times the amount of people as there are buttons at the show, the competition to bring home a golden button is fierce. Each year with fifty buttons sold during the fundraiser earns the museum $1,000 as well as offering a special take away to dedicated fans.
With the livelihood of the dummies, dolls, and memorabilia seen throughout the museum, it is no surprise that the museum strongly encourages the fandom of this art to grow every year with their annual convention. With a simple trade or the commonality of donating to the same cause, buttons help bring people together who have similar interests but may not speak them out loud. From beginners to pros, the buttons Vent Haven Museum creates help to celebrate W.S. Berger’s legacy and the art of ventriloquists.