Marco Island Historical Society launches $5 million endowment campaign

Marco Island Historical Society Endowment Campaign committee members Myrt Rose, Pat Rutledge and Committee Chairman Tish Champagne.

Pat Rutledge, executive director of the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) announced the official kick off of a $5 million endowment campaign at a gathering of friends on April 9.

In her remarks to the group, Rutledge shared that the evening was about honoring the past, celebrating the accomplishments of the present and, most importantly, looking toward the exciting future of MIHS.

She pointed out why the endowment campaign is so important to ensure the future of MIHS and the Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM).

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“Especially now, when many historical societies and museums have closed their doors never to reopen as a result of the pandemic, we realized that we are very vulnerable without an endowment,” said Rutledge. “A healthy endowment fund will ensure our future. History doesn’t belong just to us. It belongs to the future. Following behind us are generations who will want to know the stories that went before. We can’t let those stories disappear.”

Rutledge also shared some major MIHS accomplishments over the 27 years since its founding. MIHS initially raised the funds to build the new Museum that celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

MIHS opened four permanent exhibits in just four years, and MIHM twice received the highest recognition in the Florida museum system, the Museum of Excellence Award from the Florida Association of Museums.

With the support of MIHS, three books on Marco Island history have been published, including Curator of Collections Austin Bell’s newest book, The Nine Lives of Florida’s Famous Key Marco Cat.

The MIHS’s long-time quest to bring back the Key Marco Cat to Marco Island was realized in 2019 when the Smithsonian Institution agreed to a three-year loan that now, through the work of MIHS and MIHM has been extended by five more years through 2026.

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The MIHS endowment campaign is led by MIHS Board Member Tish Champagne and committee members Rosemary Albanese, Tom Britten, Bruce Graev, Carolyn Henderson and Pat Rutledge. A match challenge Legacy Gift of $100,000 has been issued by MIHS Board Member Myrt Rose and matched by Tish and Rene Champagne. Others are invited to meet the challenge or to make their own match challenges in varying amounts.

Donors of $10,000 or more to the endowment campaign become members of the prestigious MIHS Cushing Society that honors Frank Hamilton Cushing leader of the 1896 Marco Island archaeological dig that revealed the Key Marco Cat and other pre-Columbian artifacts — one of the most important finds of pre-Columbian artifacts in North America.  

“A successful endowment campaign will ensure that the Marco Island Historical Society will have the financial foundation necessary to continue to maintain and exhibit the extensive MIHS collections that encompass more than 40,000 objects; to bring in important loaned exhibits; and to preserve, present and keep alive the fascinating history of Marco Island for current and future generations,” notes Rutledge.

To learn how you can support the MIHS endowment campaign, contact Pat Rutledge at (239) 389-6447 or The Marco Island Historical Museum is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and the site is handicapped accessible. For information, visit