Wednesday, January 19, 2022

History, Bricks & Mortar and the Coming of the Cat

Historical Society Speaker Updates Appreciative Crowd

In a perfect world relating to the Marco Island Historical Society, Alan Sandlin would like to see a membership of around 5,000 instead of 500.

“The more members we have, the less time we have to spend asking for money,” Sandlin quipped during a recent evening talk at MIHS on the society’s past, present and future.

Perhaps a good omen in that regard was that despite being up against feverish election night result watching, Sandlin still managed to draw a crowd of more than 50 appreciative people.

A past president of the society, Sandlin touched on aspects of the island’s history, noting that “out West (indigenous) people left their edifices behind, but here, if you don’t dig, you ain’t gonna find.”

Sandlin was alluding to the imminent arrival of the famed Key Marco Cat, the six-inch tall native wood statuette found perfectly preserved in “muck” during an 1896 archeological dig.

It is now housed “for safekeeping” in a drawer at the Smithsonian Institution, which after solicitations from MIHS agreed to loan the statuette and many other artifacts from the dig for a two-year exhibition on Marco beginning January 2019.

“It was one of the most significant digs in the history of North America … and it’s going to be one of the finest exhibits in the country, right here on our doorstep,” Sandlin said.

During his breezy presentation, which he punctuated with plenty of anecdotes and touches of humor, Sandlin also spoke about the uniqueness of the museum and auditorium buildings.

The museum’s outer walls, for example, were originally coated with shells to fit the campus’ Calusa Indian theme, but Collier County (a partner in the venture) deemed their sharpness dangerous.

So, Sandlin said, workers walked up and down with 2x4s, grinding the shells down to a smoother finish.

The auditorium, he said, featured Russian white oak floors to help with acoustics that were initially a problem, while the roofing was made of synthetic thatch obtained from an African manufacturing company via Orlando, Florida.

The two buildings began to materialize in September of 2008, courtesy of spirited fundraising and some extremely generous individual donations, Sandlin said.

Three years later the museum and auditorium opened to the delight of dozens of volunteers down the years who finally saw their efforts rewarded.

Sandlin said he hopes the auditorium, already popular for conventions, theater/music performances and weddings, will eventually house traveling exhibits.

“We could bring in world-class exhibits,” he said.

Wrapping up, Sandlin turned back to his initial thoughts on adding membership to the nearly 25-year-old society.

“Join us as we preserve history and make history,” he said. “Our stories are exciting; and MIHS is passionate about sharing.”

Visit for more information on the society and museum.


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