Among the most popular exhibitions at Shelburne Museum are two hand-carved wood circus models. The Arnold Circus Parade was made between 1925 and 1955 and forms a parade more than 500 feet long. The 4,000 one-inch-to-one-foot scale figures include clowns, acrobats, animals, and circus wagons, evoking the heyday of the circus era. The Kirk Brothers Circus is a miniature three-ring circus, complete with an audience, comprised of more than 3,500 pieces. Edgar Kirk fashioned the figures over a period of forty years using only a treadle jigsaw and penknife.
Shelburne Museum also has more than 500 circus posters dating from the 1830s to the 1960s. The imaginative, brightly colored posters advertise Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Brothers, and other major shows. Another highlight of the circus collections is a remarkable archive of photo negatives by Elliot Fenander. Taken in the late 1960s, these photographs document the circus during a period of decline in a culturally turbulent era.