After biding their time stored in chests for about 100 years in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Smithsonian archives, the Key Marco Cat and several other stunning artifacts are back on Marco Island at the Marco Island Historical Museum until April 2021, for the first time in over 100 years.
January 26th was the Grand Opening of the exhibit and it was grand in every sense of the word. In the Sandlin Gallery, long-supportive members, guests and dignitaries heard proclamations from the Marco City Council and the County Commissioners, read with the usual plethora of “Whereas this and that” before Executive Director Pat Rutledge called the board members and staff to join the Ribbon Cutting for the momentous return of the artifacts to the place they were initially unearthed in the muck of Marco in 1896.
Young and older were proud of their new looks.
Over 1,000 members, guests, tourists and children arrived happily in the rain to share in this special event and look at the treasured artifacts through climate and vibration-controlled glass enclosures that protect the artifacts from light and humidity and explore the award-winning Calusa Gallery.
Crowds were steady all day, maybe influenced by the colder than normal outside temperature, and were entertained by Kat Epple and Nathan Dyke with Calusa-inspired music accompanied with storytelling in Rose Hall. There were artists to watch in action, craft activities for the younger set, face-painting, kittens, a rescue puppy, a raffle that inspired younger and older participants, video history, and beautifully-created, updated exhibits.
Getting back to the muck hole where the artifacts were found, the Cushing expedition was a challenge, not only because of the scorching sun and insects, but they realized that the numerous masks, arrows, canoes, paintings on wood and tools deteriorated when removed from their nearly oxygen-free environment and stored in the oxygen-rich environment out of the muck. Captain Cushing was smart to bring sketch artist and photographer, Wells Sawyer, with him so the initial radiance of the colors could be captured. The only artifact that didn’t seem to deteriorate too much was the exquisite hard wood carving of the Key Marco Cat, which is one of the best-known anthropological artifacts ever discovered.
The Marco Island Historical Museum is one of the top two places recommended to visit when on Marco Island, so take the time to come visit, bring your guests and come often because there is so much to learn.
For more photos and to read more about the return of the Key Marco Cat, turn to page A-18.