North American Manx Museum now open on campus

August 20, 2012

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Robert Kelly cuts the ribbon to open the North American Manx Museum. Next to Kelly is Samuel Slocum, Mary Kelly and Dennis J. Shields, UW-Platteville chancellor.

 

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The North American Manx Museum is now open to the public at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The four-day North American Manx Convention was capped off with the unveiling of the museum on Saturday evening, Aug. 11. A special ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the museum, which was years in the making.

The museum is dedicated to showcasing the immigrants from the Isle of Man and their descendants in North America. The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea between England, Ireland and Scotland.

“This museum is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can explore the history of the Manx culture for their learning enjoyment and also gain a heightened understanding and appreciation of the Manx inheritance,” said UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields.

The first meeting to form a museum committee was held Nov. 1, 2004.

Mary Kelly is pictured with Bruce Howdle, the artist who created the ceramic work that hangs behind him.

 

Mary F. Kelly of Platteville, a Manx descendent and a 1964 UW-Platteville graduate, first proposed the idea of incorporating items about Manx immigrants and their history connected to Southwest Wisconsin. Kelly served as a Manx liaison throughout the process.

“The museum is very nice and I believe it will contribute much to the education of visitors and students on our campus,” said Kelly. “The Manx heritage is unique and few people have knowledge about its culture. Sometimes we learn more about ourselves while we look closely at the lives of others.”

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony Honorable Clare Christian, the first female president of Tynwald, the Isle of Man’s legislature, was presented with a proclamation from Gov. Scott Walker noting Aug. 11 as Hon. Clare Christian Day in Wisconsin. “It’s a great honor and privilege to accept this,” said Christian. “It is another first for a Manx woman.”

The entrance to the museum is based on the Peel Castle on the Isle of Man. Visitors will be able to watch videos chronicling the Isle of Man as well being able to scroll through an electronic version of the Chronicles of Mann and see immigration routes taken by the Manx to North America as well as smaller relief sculptures that highlight various Manx themes.

Robert Kelly (front), accompanied by Samuel Slocum, tours the North American Manx Museum.

 

In addition to the museum, the Southwest Wisconsin Room at Ullsvik Hall includes an archived collection of Manx books, maps, ceramic figurines, magazines and journals. “We are proud and deeply honored to have such a unique, historical collection at our university,” said Chancellor Shields.

“It is so important to know there is finally one place in North America where people can learn about the Isle of Man from the classic and essential texts the way they can at our North American Manx Museum is very satisfying,” said Kelly. “The Internet is great, but for many people it is not enough. I delight in picking up the books and researching information from writers of yesteryear.”

According to Kelly, the donations of $100,000 and valuable artifacts from Robert Kelly, honorary president of the North American Manx Association, has turned the talk of a museum into a reality. Other important contributions have come from the Isle of Man government, Manx National Heritage, Wisconsin Manx Society, Greater Washington Area Manx Society, Minnesota Manx Society, the T.R. and LaJean Anderson Library and numerous individuals.

The process of constructing the museum inside Ullsvik Hall was made possible thanks to the efforts of an army of people, according to Geri Zauche, UW-Platteville facilities designer. “Painters, electricians and carpenters from the Facilities Department and Media Technologies Department here on campus created everything from castle walls to custom timed and lit electronics,” she said. “UW-Platteville's Publications Department was able to take some of the history pulled together by James Hibbard, UW-Platteville archivist, and create great photo presentations and photo displays that can be changed and added on to as we get more personal history. We have great local talent that did a great job of creating custom cabinets, sculptures, hanging murals and the finishing touches together in quick time. The audio visual system designed by our own Media Technologies Department is capable of so much and given permissions for using RSS feeds and licensed electronic media, it is state of the art and flexible for many types of presentations.”

Like many others, Zauche enjoyed hearing the personal stories of the Manx people. “I had a chance to visit with many of the guests Saturday night at the reception, where I enjoyed hearing even more about how so many came to find North America as their new home,” she said. “It’s a proud heritage with a rich history. The museum is the catalyst for the journey.”

Attendees at the opening of the North American Manx Museum pose for a photo in Ullsvik Hall.

 

Zauche escorted a blind UW-Platteville student, Chelsea Reilly, and her boyfriend through the museum on Sunday, Aug. 12. “The audio equipment along with the ceramic murals created by Bruce Howdle and Cory Jenny gave them a great perspective,” said Zauche. “It was fun to see them experience it, and walk them through the memorabilia and graphics. Chelsea kept saying, ‘I wish my dad was here to see this.’ What a great compliment.”

Contact: James Hibbard, archivist, (608) 342-1719, hibbardj@uwplatt.edu; Geri Zauche, facilities designer, (608) 342-1603, zaucheg@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, wackersd@uwplatt.edu

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