VIDEO: Enthusiasm for Marco museum is not history as grand opening remains on-schedule

Museum-backers seek money for displays at meeting with County Commission on Tuesday

Article Highlights

  • Museum backers to meet with County Commission in hopes of support Tuesday
  • Museum grand opening in February, enthusiasm mounting despite temporary set back with amount of county money available for exhibits
  • Commissioner Donna Fiala says next 30 days "creative solutions" likely for additional display funding

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Marco Island Historical Museum doors will open on-time in February, Craig Woodward of the Marco Island Historical Society announces. Despite the hope for more money from the county for displays, museum organizers are eager to begin with their first primary display-- the interactive Calusa room.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Marco Island Historical Museum doors will open on-time in February, Craig Woodward of the Marco Island Historical Society announces. Despite the hope for more money from the county for displays, museum organizers are eager to begin with their first primary display-- the interactive Calusa room.

Craig Woodward takes a gander at the cement block wall outside the new Marco Island Historical Museum, which will soon be a mural by artist Paul Arsenault. The mural, to be unveiled 12 p.m. Sept. 30, will be the largest of its kind in North America at 40 feet by 10 feet.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Craig Woodward takes a gander at the cement block wall outside the new Marco Island Historical Museum, which will soon be a mural by artist Paul Arsenault. The mural, to be unveiled 12 p.m. Sept. 30, will be the largest of its kind in North America at 40 feet by 10 feet.

Craig Woodward, standing under the open sky in the Living History Hall of the Marco Island Historical Museum, says with construction ahead of schedule, soon he will be able to stand under a new thatch ceiling, similar to the style of the exterior roof in the museum complex.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Craig Woodward, standing under the open sky in the Living History Hall of the Marco Island Historical Museum, says with construction ahead of schedule, soon he will be able to stand under a new thatch ceiling, similar to the style of the exterior roof in the museum complex.

“Build it and they will come” has been the motto for the Marco Island Historical Museum for about seven years. Now, “Build some and they will come. Build some more and they will come again,” may be more reflective of the truth even if it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The actual construction of buildings are ahead of schedule, however obtaining and building all the planned displays, seems to be behind schedule.

Optimism about the museum opening isn’t history for Island attorney Craig Woodward of the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) and for Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala.

“The tell tale sign for the museum is going to be this Tuesday when they (Collier County Commissioners) approve the budget,” said Bill Perdichizzi of MIHS.

Initially, when Perdichizzi heard that exhibits, estimated to cost about $1.5 million, would have to be paid for with only about $80,000 from the county and $100,000 in matching Tourist Development Council (TDC) grants, he feared the worst – a grand opening to a museum with nothing inside it.

That initial shock is wearing off and excitement for the museum’s February grand opening is mounting, Woodward said.

He understands money may not be available yet, but anticipates a series of mini-openings for exhibits, which will likely get funded in stages, beginning with the largest, most interactive exhibit in the museum’s Calusa room.

“The diorama in the center of the room will have the biggest wow factor. We can do it for the money. Of course, like everyone else, the county is having financial challenges. We want people to be really excited. We’ll have a rolling opening,” Woodward said.

Fiala and other county officials have been collaborating to find alternatives in a challenging budget year, Fiala said.

“They’ve been very cooperative and supportive,” Woodward confirmed.

TDC funds aren’t available, but Fiala said there may be other pots to look at and county staff is helping with that.

“Money is so darn tight and everybody wants it ... We want to open in a successful way and start off on the right foot. We’re headed in a positive direction and I think we’re going to make it,” Fiala said.

Alternatives may include leftover, unallocated money from the close of Fiscal 2009, which won’t be determined until next month. Another help may be surplus display boxes and other items from the county museum system.

Woodward described the high-end finishes in Marco’s $4.5 million museum, including granite tile, rustic wood finishes, porcelain tile floors that look like shell stone and thatched roofs, as meant to last decades.

The historical society and its backers didn’t skimp outside the 15,500-square-foot buildings either. Landscaping will be primarily native surrounding a lagoon, large shell mound, pedestrian bridges and chickee huts.

“When you drive by and see the shell mound and the bridges and the lagoon, you’ll look up and see the buildings and thatched roofs. It will be a real show-stopper,” Woodward said of the complex on Heathwood Drive, located near Mackle Park and the library.

“This is no government-looking building,” Woodward said of the museum.

As to whether a paid admission might help fund additional exhibits along the way – it’s not on the table at this time. Collier County museums currently don’t charge admission.

Woodward wanted the approximate 600 people who contributed time and money to the project to know the museum is not in financial distress.

There is plenty of money for construction, enough money to operate in 2010 and enough to start with at least one impressively large room of exhibits, he said.

As the county is cutting many non-essential services, museum-backers say they understand the challenges.

“You’re not going to pull the police and the fire ... It’s part of the problem with libraries and museums. They provide services with no revenues connected to them,” Woodward said.

Well, almost no revenues. The museum will have a gift shop with children’s toys, historical books and replicas of artifacts. In Disney World-fashion, a visitor won’t be able to exit the place without getting through its gift shop.

Features of the museum are also to include:

n An exterior mural by artist Paul Arsenault, which will be one of the largest of its kind in North America at about 40 feet by 10 feet to be unveiled 12 p.m. Sept. 30

n A Pioneer era room.

n “The bomb shelter” or safe room with large windows for viewing particularly sensitive exhibits and to store items when extra protection is needed, such as during a hurricane.

n Eventually, the Marco Cat may be obtained from the Washington, DC Smithsonian Museum, once Marco has also obtained a curator.

n The Modern Marco room with exhibits from the Deltona development era.

n Living History Hall.

“When people walk in they’re just amazed at the scale of it. We were able to double the size of the museum for the same amount of money because of the economy. We’ll be able to grow into it. We won’t need a bigger museum,” Woodward said.

MIHS members realize the challenges they face. Commissioners likely won’t choose to just support hotels and stop funding museums as TDC funds become scarce, but that will be their decision, Woodward said.

He added: “A lot of work will go into filling this huge museum ... No matter what, the facility is gorgeous and it will be used.”

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