One of the remarkable things about the Marco Island Historical Museum is how the outside world has been incorporated into each part of the complex. This even extends to the gem of a gift shop. Laurie Wagor, a long-time Marco Island resident, is Chairperson of Events for the Museum, and also guru of the gift shop.
After an eight year stint with the Marriott as Director of Tennis, and 18 years as Sports Center Manager, Laurie moved over to the Museum. With a strong background in retailing and sales she joined with Nancy Garrison to design and develop the gift shop. Their idea, in concert with the other parts of the project, was “to bring the outside in”.That can be seen immediately on entering the shop. It has a familiar theme of the thatched overhead. Laurie has stocked the shelves with items not ordinarily seen in museum gift shops. She has filled the shop with everything from hand-fashioned Indian masks to a wonderful replica of the famous Marco Cat (now in the Smithsonian) to books for young and old dealing with facets of Calusa life and culture and other subjects particularly related to Marco Island.
Any profits from the gift shop go to the Marco Island Historical Society. Laurie is supported by a bevy of devoted volunteers – at least 20 – who man (or woman!) the shop. Their sales have grown exponentially since knowledge of the Museum andits treasures has spread beyond the community itself. Laurie does the buying for the shop, and concentrates on unique items.
Beyond the gift shop, Laurie is focused on events, with many outstanding speakers and compelling exhibits as main attractions. Travel exhibits are under the wing of Lisa Marciano of Collier County, who serves as Assistant Manager. The Museum is, in effect, a joint undertaking of the city and county. The city is responsible for insurance and overhead, and attempts to break even by renting out Rose Hall (the auditorium) for films and speakers.
Currently the Museum is running an extraordinary exhibit of some paintings by “The Florida Highwaymen” – a group of black artists who have turned out over 200,000 paintings. That isnot a typo; it is a real number! Several original Highwaymen have visited the Museum for book and art signings.
Noted artist Paul Arsenault delivered a lecture on January 19th about “A.E. “Beanie” Backus, Florida’s Highwaymen’s Friend and Inspiration”. Mr. Arsenault is best known locally for his depiction of Calusa life in tile on the exterior of the Museum.
Things are humming at the Museum with new exhibits, anticipated additional exhibit shelves and display cases and, of course, events in the Rose History Auditorium. The auditorium may be rented by groups for everything from weddings to concerts to films to seminars. This slice of life on Marco is not to be missed. Admission to the Museum is free. It is open from 10:00AM to 4:00PM from Tuesday through Saturday.