Go back to the future, Marco-style

B. Elaine Michaelis
Special to the Sun Times
  • "Working with plans, for so long on a computer in two-dimension, is one thing," said Bell. "But seeing it all come together in three-D is the most exciting part."

The long-awaited "Modern Marco" exhibit, a joint venture of the Marco Island Historical Museum and the Marco Island Historical Society, is ready for viewing.

The new exhibit's official reception, which is open to all, is on Oct. 19 from 5-7 p.m. It's a perfect opportunity to travel back in time and to enjoy some good food and conversation.

"We planned the timing of the creation of this exhibit to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Modern Marco Island," said Pat Rutledge, executive director and president of the historical society's board.

The Modern Marco exhibit takes the visitor to the mid-1960s, when the concept of Marco Island, as we know it today, existed only in the imaginations of its famous developers, the Mackle brothers. The exhibit showcases their story and the transformation of Marco Island from the brothers' first visit in 1962 to their eventual withdrawal in 1986.

In one corner of the room is a model Deltona sales office, true to the era, complete with ephemera from the period: architectural drawings and master plan, sales brochures, maps, posters and photos from the historical society's archives. An original Deltona promotional film from the 60s plays on a closed-circuit monitor, via a retrofitted vintage television.

The exhibit captures the style of the era, right down to a vintage TV set in this recreation of a Deltona sales office.

The exhibit also includes a model of the Marco Island Airways airliner, in 1:13 scale, that flew in prospective buyers from Miami to the island, a replica "Tiki head" from the bow of the Marco Islander catamaran used to ferry these buyers around the island and more than a dozen large-scale display panels with appliqued graphics focusing on the Mackle/Deltona story. Several other panels highlight the important moments and milestones in Marco's history up until current times.

Plenty of original artifacts — a Marco Sari, worn by Island fashionistas in the 60s, a Deltona stock certificate for 100 shares, a collection of commemorative champagne flutes marking Marco anniversaries, an early Marco Island cookbook and more — are sprinkled throughout. A freestanding, four-way display, detailing the stories of the Marco Island Airways, the Marco Beach Hotel, the Marco Island catamaran and the Tony Lema Golf Tournament, anchors the center of the room.

Work began on this gallery immediately after the completion of "Paradise Found," the permanent exhibit that opened 10 months ago. Austin Bell, curator of collections, together with Craig Woodward and the society's exhibit committee guided the process from conceptualization to reality; Creative Arts Unlimited, a Pinellas Park firm, was responsible for the exhibit's design, fabrication and installation.

"Working with plans, for so long on a computer in two-dimension, is one thing," said Bell. "But seeing it all come together in 3D is the most exciting part." The actual installation took a five-man crew three days to complete.

The museum/historical society partnership is not yet finished. Work has already begun on yet another permanent exhibit to be called the Pioneer Room. This exhibit will focus on the lives and accomplishments of Marco's early settlers and is expected to be opened in the fall 2016.

"I am really lucky to be working here …" said Bell. "Marco Island has an amazing history… whether [it's] the pioneer era or the dramatic transformation of the island by the Mackle Brothers or the archaeological history of the Native Americans who lived here as long as 6,000 years ago…"

The Marco Island Historical Museum is at 180 S. Heathwood Drive, across from the library. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call 642-6447, visit theMIHS.org or like the museum on Facebook.