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About the Museum

Bringing joy to Countless Audiences!

The Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy honors the legacy of a man who touched numerous lives through his comedic talent, great works, compassion and commitment to public service.

As a museum, the RSMAC reflects history, ideas, innovation, discovery, diversity, creative expression and democracy in celebration of the exceptional man whose greatest ambition was to bring joy to countless audiences.

Questions About Our Collection

One Man's Impact

The Red Skelton Museum is a testament to the impact one man can have on the lives of others. Red’s life story parallels definitive moments in American history which hold lessons for us all as citizens. From his career in vaudeville, in radio, television and film, we see the character of man emerge which reminds us of the importance and value of our individual roles in society as family members, colleagues, and patriots.

Red’s ability to perform his comedic routines during his bleakest personal tragedies speak to his fortitude and altruism which inspire us to reach outside of ourselves to impact the lives of others in positive ways.

The Red Skelton Museum features a 3,500 square foot, fully interactive exhibit entitled “Red Skelton: A Legacy of Laughter” which highlights these themes:

Red's Comedy Kit

Activities which introduce the ideas of physical comedy by showing his mastery of the art of pantomime, slapstick, pratfalls, and facial expressions.

Interactive Learning

An interactive chronology featuring three parallel timelines: Red’s life, national events, and popular entertainment for visitors to explore!


Scrapbooks of photos, letters and memorabilia as well as costumes of all of his most beloved characters: Freddie the Freeloader, Clem Kaddidlehopper, etc.

Stage Set

Try your hand at physical sight gags on the “Freddie the Freeloader” stage just like Red! You'll have a blast as you try to mimic Red's movements to your live audience.

Showcase Theater

A showcase theater including a short film featuring hysterical and poignant highlights and photos from Red’s television career.

Timeline and History

The Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Phillip M. Summers, who inspired us all with his vision for this museum, and to all of those comedic professionals who continue to bring laughter into our daily lives.

After the death of Red Skelton on September 17, Dr. Phillip M. Summers, as President of Vincennes University, proposes to the board of directors that a performing arts center be named in Red's honor. The board passes this proposal.

A grant of $90,000 is awarded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to have a feasibility study performed on the project.

Committees are formed to study the idea of a combination museum and performing arts center on the Vincennes University Campus. The University purchases Red's birthplace with the intent of it becoming the Red Skelton Museum.

After much work on part of Vincennes University, funding of $17 million from the State of Indiana is secured to build the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center. Mrs. Lothian Skelton makes her first donation of Red's personal ephemera, costumes, props, art and awards.

In February, the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center opens. The structure encompasses 63,000 square feet including an 800-seat proscenium theater, scene design shop and classrooms. In June, a fundraising gala is held in order to raise funds for the future museum.

The Red Skelton Museum Foundation, Inc. is formed with 501(c)3 status, articles of incorporation and bylaws. The McCormick Family Foundation donates funds to construct the exterior shell of the museum as an addition to the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center.

The Vincennes University Foundation, caretaker of the Red Skelton collection, gifts the full artifact collection to the Red Skelton Museum Foundation.

An extensive Capital Campaign is launched with a goal of $4 million to complete the interior of the museum with an exhibit gallery, museum store, classroom, offices and artifact storage space.

Professional museum staff are hired.

The Red Skelton Museum Foundation signs contracts with Steve Feldman Design, LLC to design and install the permanent exhibit "A Legacy of Laughter."

On July 10, Lilly Endowment, Inc. awards a $1 million grant to the Red Skelton Museum Foundation to reach the project budget of $4 million, allowing the museum exhibits to be completed and a collections storage facility to be built as an addition to the museum gallery.

The Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy opens on July 18th in celebration of Red's 100th birthday.

Meet our Staff and Board of Directors

Collection and Research

What is included in the collection? 

The Red Skelton Museum house items from the Red Skelton estate donated by his widow, Lothian Skelton. In the collection are; original art work, awards from many organizations, autographs from notable people, letters to Georgia Skelton, letters to and from notable people, scrapbooks, photos (Family, film, television, military, vacations), sheet music, clothing, recordings, personal library books, personal appearance programs and other personal items.

Many bound volumes of Red Skelton’s scripts and letters are housed in the Indiana Historical Society.

The museum is working on making the collection open to the public on the internet or in person. Until then you can ask the Curator, Mark Kratzner questions (

Does the museum accept donations?

The museum is always looking for good Red Skelton stories to document moments of his life. We will take donations of items. We are aware that his art work has been reproduced. The museum would be interested in original items.

The Museum only accepts objects it is able to care for and use in a manner acceptable to professional museum practices. New acquisitions must upgrade the existing collection or fill a recognized deficiency in the existing collection. Gifts to the Museum are considered unrestricted donations to be used in the best interests of the Museum. Donors are required to declare in writing that they have full ownership of the item(s)donated and have complete authority to make the donation.

Objects and works of art acquired by the Museum may be placed in one of two categories: permanent collection or education collection. Education collection items may be handled and used in the Museum’s educational programs or for research and study purposes. Either category of object may be used for exhibition, loan, or may eventually be deaccessioned. It is a conflict of interest for the Museum to appraise donations for tax purposes, nor may Museum staff appraise items as a service for visitors. For the protection of the donor, it is recommended that appraisals be made by a disinterested third party before the object is conveyed to the Museum.

Does the museum buy Red Skelton memorabilia?

The museum does not buy memorabilia from private parties.

What is the scope of the collection?

The Museum’s collection contains historical and artistic materials related to the life, career, and talents of radio, television, and film star Richard Bernard “Red” Skelton. This collection primarily covers the time period of 1913-1997. Items are accessioned into the collections based on their historic and educational significance to the Museum’s mission and vision.

The collection is managed by professional staff member(s) of the Collections Department who are responsible for all aspects of its curation and maintenance.

Organization of the Permanent Collection

The Museum’s permanent collection is comprised of objects that are the most relevant to the Museum’s Mission and Scope of Collection statements.  Items selected for inclusion into the permanent collection will offer a direct and tangible link to Red Skelton. Generally, these items will have been owned, used, or created by Red. The permanent collection is divided into the following categories:

Artwork – Original paintings created by Red over the course of his life. This collection will generally not include reproductions of Red’s art unless the inclusion of a specific reproduction fills a gap due to the absence of the original.  Nor will this collection include original artwork created by others and gifted to Red.

Costumes and Props – These objects will have been used and or worn by Red during his many radio, stage, television, and film performances.  Costumes and props indirectly used by Red (i.e. used by guest-stars, extras, etc.) will also be considered for this category.

Awards – The many plaques, trophies, and certificates that were awarded to Red for his professional and private accomplishments will be maintained under this category.

Personal Effects – Everyday objects owned, used, or collected by Red that are not significant to the other collections categories

Gifts – As a celebrity, Red received many gifts and tokens from friends and admirers.  These objects can vary in significance and intrinsic value.  This collection will purposely be limited to only the most relevant pieces.

Photographs – All photographs in the collection are to be maintained under this category

Written Works – This category includes literary works authored by Red in addition to show scripts, jokes, skits, and correspondence sent and received.

Musical – This category contains musical scores composed by Red.  This includes handwritten and published works.  Musical instruments and other equipment used by Red in the composition of music are also included in this category.

Audio/Visual – The various radio, television, and film, recordings of Red’s performances are preserved in this category.

Does the museum provide appraisal services? 

Thank you for your inquiry however, the Red Skelton Museum, like all other museums, is not permitted to provide appraisal services nor do we purchase artifacts. There are many professional appraisers in your area who can evaluate your item. Many auction houses and independent antique dealers offer appraisal services as well. Associations, such as the one listed below, can also refer you to a specialist in your area.

Here is the web link for the Appraisers Association of America which has a resource list searchable by zip code:

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