The Ringling Archives’ mission is to maintain and further develop a regionally important archival collection of institutional records and materials that document the history of the Museum, the Ringlings, the Circus Arts, Wild West shows and allied arts.
In 1986, the Museum was undergoing a gallery restoration project. Historical records and materials were needed for this project. Records were stored in various offices in three separate buildings across the campus with no organizational control, which made research difficult and, at times, nearly impossible to do. In January 1987, Dr. Laurence Ruggiero, Director of the Museum, presented a proposal to the Board of Trustees to establish a Museum Archives and the motion passed. In 1989, a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant provided the initial funding for the Archives.
The Ringling Archives has grown to become an integral part of the Museum providing information to each of the Museum’s departments. The Archives holds: the records of the Museum; Ringling Family papers; photograph collections; Circus Arts, Wild West Shows and allied arts collections; and manuscripts.
By Appointment only. Please complete the Archive Inquiry form to request an appointment.
Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m; Closed on all State holidays.
Donating to the Archives
We are always interested in learning about related collections that would enhance research. Our collections document all aspects of The Ringling. We collect records of circus performers and workers, small family circuses, and all types of circus memorabilia. Prospective donors are invited to contact us to discuss possible donations. In accordance with IRS rules, the Museum cannot appraise donations or pay for appraisals.
The Archives’ staff are able to provide copies from the collection in many different formats. Access to collections and permission to copy materials depends on its condition, legal restrictions, state law and donor restrictions. Permission to quote from manuscript material for publication purposes must be obtained from the Archivist as well as from the holder of the copyright. For more information consult Rights and Reproductions.