The museum opened in 2001 in the main building of the old barracks called Avedørelejren. Its foundation is the large collection gathered by the juggler Ølund Barly (1917-1999), which consists of more than 110.000 different items ranging from photos to circus props and costumes.
The collection was originally stored in Barly’s apartment, but in 1992 a project took form aimed at digitally registering Barly’s entire collection and having it stored in a safer environment. This work took 10 years, and resulted in one of the largest digitally registered collections in Denmark.
In 1999 the municipality of Hvidovre bought Avedørelejren and wanted to create an attractive area where residential housing was mixed with tourism, creative business and culture. The municipality gained an interest in Barly’s collection and in 2001 the Circus Museum opened in Avedørelejren.
Since 2004 the museum has been run by the municipality of Hvidovre. In 2009 funds from Realdania and Arbejdsmarkedets Feriefond made it possible to expand the museum considerably with the addition of Fægtesalen. Here the museum can offer circus activities such as performances and workshops, which add a whole new dimension to the museum experience.