I grew up on Sesame Street — almost literally. The set of the show is designed to look like the streets of New York (there’s a reason one lovable muppet is a grouch who lives in garbage). The original Sesame Street offices were located across the street from Lincoln Center, explains Sesame Workshop archivist Susan Tofte, and the show was originally filmed on the Upper West Side before Sesame studios moved to Queens. I grew up in the West 80s, so the set — giant bird aside — looked familiar.

In honor of the iconic show entering its 45th season, Sesame Workshop and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts put together an exhibit showcasing the materials that make Sesame Street so special: original drawings of muppets, sheet music for original Sesame songs, and at least one photo of a board meeting with Telly Monster in attendance. Plus, the muppets themselves, and information on the people who bring them to life.

The exhibit (at Lincoln Center) allows adult and child fans an opportunity to peek behind the curtain. When asked if that might ruin the magic for puppet-believers, Tofte, who curated the exhibit, said the effect was the opposite. Even on the show, she says, kids who see a human operating a muppet pay attention to the latter. “The magic,” she says “is that kids talk directly to the puppet.”

Sesame Street’s has always shed light on areas usually kept in the dark for kids. When the actor playing Mr. Hooper died, the humans on the show talked to Big Bird about death. Now, one muppet child’s dad is in jail, so that kids watching at home with an incarcerated parent don’t feel alone. This, plus some spot-on musical parodies, has kept Sesame Street magical for all these years.

“Somebody Come and Play”: 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder Opened on September 18, 2014 and will be at on display in The Library for the Performing Arts’ Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery through January 31, 2015.

Essay and photographs by Danielle Wiener-Bronner.

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The Muppet Show - Animal Vs Buddy Rich Drum Battle.
Animal was holding his own at the top Then Buddy crushes him!


Of all the Muppets, Mr. Snuffleupagus was the most elusive. He was also my favorite.

Look, man, get it together. You don’t see Mr. Snuffleupagus gifs every day.

Cherish life.

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A Sesame Street song in which Bert remains square even while singing about a circle.

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Tom Hiddleston and Josh Groban in the muppets most wanted! *Squee!* I love them both! Being in the same movie together amaziiing.