Wednesday, December 12, 2018

MIHS Appraisal Faire – Funds for Artifacts

The Key Marco Cat and More!

MIHS Executive Director Pat Rutledge and Jennifer Perry, Museum Manager. Photos by Maureen Chodaba

MIHS Executive Director Pat Rutledge and Jennifer Perry, Museum Manager. Photos by Maureen Chodaba

“The heart has its own memory, like the mind, and in it are enshrined the precious keepsakes.”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In 1896, several precious keepsakes were discovered right here on Marco Island.

A six-inch tall wood carving depicting a figure, part feline- part human, was unearthed by Frank Hamilton Cushing and his team of archaeologists. The excavation discovered several other artifacts as well, all determined to have been artistically created by the Calusa Native Americans in the years 300 AD to 1500 AD. These items now reside at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, but they are coming back to be with us with the help of the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS).

Marco Island’s historical figures.

Marco Island’s historical figures.

The Society recently hosted a fundraiser at Mackle Park for this initiative. The 2018 Spring Appraisal Faire featured Antiques Roadshow appraisers Wes Cowan, Nan Chisholm and Ken Farmer, along with Pauline

Archambault and Brad Wanstrath of Cowan’s Auctions. The public was invited to bring their heirlooms of fine art, fine jewelry and timepieces, sculpture, folk art, rare books and photographs, historic Americana, decorative arts, Native American objects and Western artifacts for appraisal.

The author’s Grandmother Ruth’s engagement ring, circa 1918

The author’s Grandmother Ruth’s engagement ring, circa 1918

I brought one of my most prized possessions – my grandmother’s engagement ring. My grandparents, Ruth and “Foxy,” were married in 1918, shortly after the end of World War I, or the Great War, as they called it. My grandmother was a woman with a unique sense of style, quite avant-garde for her time. She loved things that were different and distinctive. The ring reflects her extraordinary panache. The stone is not a traditional engagement diamond. It is a large granite like oval shaped gem with an almost mysterious greenish blue hue. The setting consists of ornate floral filigree, reminiscent of workmanship from an era gone by.

The author’s grandparents in 1918, just after the Great War. Submitted Photo

The author’s grandparents in 1918, just after the Great War. Submitted Photo

Appraiser Brad Wanstrath, who has nearly 40 years of experience in the jewelry industry, including certifications from the Diamond Council of America and the Gemological Institute of America, examined the ring with precision and expertise. He concurred that the ring is approximately 100 years old. The stone is a blend of lapis lazuli and malachite, set in 10-karat tri-color gold. Its monetary value is probably less than $500. But its sentimental value is astronomical! I look at the ring and imagine the joy my grandparents must have felt upon my grandfather’s return from service in the war. I see their hopes and dreams for the life they would share. And I see how truly blessed I am to have this most precious keepsake of their love and our family.

Several Marco Island historical figures were on hand at the event. Hazel Pettit Griffin, the first nurse in Collier County (portrayed by Evelyn Case) was joined by Deaconess Bedell (portrayed by Marion Nicolay), mail order bride Molly Hamilton (portrayed by Cindi Kramer), school teacher Thelma Heath (portrayed by Carolyn Rosenfeld) and Marie Smith Ludlow (portrayed by Doreen Hertel). You can learn more about these great women by stopping by the Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Other events in the MIHS fundraiser included a “State of the Antiques World” lecture at the Rose History Auditorium and “An Affaire to Remember” gala at the Island Country Club, including a live auction conducted by Wes Cowan and Ken Farmer. The gala raised more than $125,000 towards meeting the $350,000 fund-raising goal to bring “home” on loan to Marco Island the world-famous Key Marco Cat and other rare Pre-Columbian Native American artifacts discovered there in 1896. (See photos from An Affaire to Remember gala in this issue of Coastal Breeze News.)

“The Marco Island Historical Society is so pleased to have had this unique opportunity to meet with and bring such renowned appraisers to Marco Island,” said Pat Rutledge, MIHS Executive Director. “The funds raised will help to ready the Marco Island Historical Museum for the return of the Key Marco Cat and other treasured artifacts, but the fundraising doesn’t end with these events. For as little as $500, individuals and businesses can ‘Fund an Artifact’ and be permanently and prominently recognized in the Marco Island Historical Museum for generations to come.”

To learn more about the Fund an Artifact program, please contact Pat Rutledge at 239-389-6447 or email her at exec@themihs.org.

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