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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Lightner Museum

While in St. Augustine, I had the pleasure of touring the Lightner Museum, housed in the old Alcazar Hotel.  The museum contains collections of antiques, oddities, and everyday items from long ago.  The first floor, full of scientific and natural displays, features a mummified child, a shrunken head, and the preserved lion that once belonged to Sir Winston Churchill.  While exploring other levels, we came across a huge display of cut glass, Tiffany glass, urns, porcelain knick-knacks (including that of a cross-dressing clown), and very old, amazing furniture.  Additionally, one can tour the original steam baths and rooms of Henry Flagler's great hotel.
This seashell wreath (left) is on display in the Science Room on the first floor of the Lightner Museum.  Hundreds of shells have been placed in a fine artistic pattern that features flowers at its center.  This is no dime-store, junk-shop find, ladies and gentlemen, though it reminds one of the shell wind chimes hanging at every tourist trap along the Atlantic Coast.  I have to wonder what sort of glue was used to hold all the shells in such intricate detail.  This is a neat idea for a display of all the shells one collects while walking on the beach, but I don't think I'd like to have it to hang year-round.  It is a very pretty piece, nonetheless.  

This button display (right) can also be found at the Lightner Museum.  Another neat idea for an ordinary object, the display allows one to gaze upon buttons as more than mere fasteners.  The photo is taken at an angle because the buttons are hidden in a very narrow hallway that is filled with framed button collections that span years and trends in the art of buttoning.  State seals, animals, family crests, flowers, and more align the walls in a dizzying array of colors and sizes.  This big-little display would be hard to miss if you were rushing through the museum, but of course we chose to dawdle.  
My favorite button designs are the teapot and the bouquet of flowers.  The pot was constructed of many different metallic buttons, forming a rich, yet delicate, appearance.  How inviting, I would love to have been welcomed into this lady's home for a spot of tea.  The bouquet, full of rich colors and interesting textures, reminds me of the button bouquets one sees in so many trendy bridal magazines today.  Imagine, this collector was ahead of her own time.  Or, perhaps, the button bouquets harken back to a more simple time.  Regardless, the effect of each is absolutely stunning. 

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