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The mission of the Wilder Memorial Museum is to preserve and maintain collections reflecting the heritage of the people of Strawberry Point, Iowa and the surrounding communities, promoting education and increasing awareness of the culture and diversity of Northeast Iowa.
Wilder Memorial Museum History and Story
Clayton County Press-Journal, Thursday, August 22, 1968: "A few years ago, Blanche Baldridge, realizing the value of the dolls which she has collected, offered them to the Iowa State Historical society. Mr. Jack Musgrove replied that the society would by happy to receive them at such time as Mrs. Baldridge was willing to give them up, and at least part of them would be put on display. This awakened local people to the value of the dolls and ways were sought to keep them in Strawberry Point. The Klingbeil house entered into the picture because it had stood vacant for a few years and it was suggested that it might be purchased and converted into a "doll museum." The fact that the planning and construction of this particular house is vividly described in Florence Roe Wiggins' book titled Strawberry Point, could add value to such a purpose. After preliminary investigation, it was decided that the cost of repairs and maintenance would be too great and the house would still be vulnerable to fire and burglars so new construction on the site was agreed on.
Most residents of the area are probably not aware of the chain of events that have brought to museum to its present stage of planning. In fact, many have probably not seen the amazing collection of dolls of all sizes and types in the Baldridge-Kenneally collection, gathered in some 30 years of pursuing this hobby. Mrs. Baldridge first became interested in dolls one day when she happened to see a large window display of dolls and buggies in a Cedar Rapids Department store, it made her wonder where her childhood dolls were. She came home and started looking, to find that some of them were still in her possession. An article on "Dollology" in Hobbie Magazine gave her added enthusiasm, and so, instead of buying a new dress or a hat, she would buy another doll whenever she had the opportunity. When her sister came to make her home with her she also joined in the hobby and she remembers that her first acquisition was a china doll purchased from Mary Buckley Alderson, a doll that is now about a hundred years old."
Mrs. Baldridge and Mrs. Kenneally offered their entire doll collection; the town purchased the lot, and the trustees of the Mary Gill Wilder Estate offered $25,000 to erect a building provided that public support was in evidence. They asked for that support at a public meeting at the Town Hall. Articles of Incorporation for the Strawberry Point Historical Society were in the process of being drawn up for approval at the public meeting scheduled at the Town Hall on Tuesday evening August 27, 1968.
From this point the rest is history. The museum now museum includes three large rooms of exhibits, including a Textile Exhibit, Prairie Farm Exhibit, Victorian Art Glass and Furniture, Meissen and Dresden Porcelain, Impressionist paintings, Doctors Exhibit, Geological and Cultural Display, and an Heirloom doll collection, among many others.
The heirloom doll collection contains over 800 rare and beautiful examples of dolls from around the world dating back to the 1700's. They include Italian Lenci, French Bru, German Heinrich Handwerck, Mexican wax, and American Emma Clear.
Our military exhibit dates back to the Revolutionary War. The strong military heritage in Northeast Iowa is displayed in items such as uniforms, weaponry, and service medals including a World War I purple heart.
The majority of the Victorian furniture, art glass, and hanging lamps belonged to a lifetime Strawberry Point resident and past museum Board president, Marcey Alderson. His stunning collections range from over two dozen needlepoint chairs, art glass including Peachblow, Mount Washington, and Burmese, as well as forty hanging and dozens of table lamps. Also included in the lamp collection is a lamp used in the movie "Gone with the Wind." This is not a comprehensive list of his collections as there is also a stunning array of rare European porcelain figures and lamps including Meissen and Dresden.
Myrwyn Eaton, a Strawberry Point native, donated his entire collection of Impressionist artwork, which includes hundreds of pieces, utilizing many different mediums, such as watercolor, gouache, and pencil. Eaton, well known worldwide for his abilities, held private shows in Paris, New York, and at the United Nations. Throughout his global travels and California retirement, Myrwyn Eaton never lost his love for his hometown, which is why he decided to donate his collection to the Wilder Memorial Museum.
Our Geological and Cultural Exhibit displays items dating back millions of years. The majority of these items were part of the amazing collections of Blanche Baldridge although many local and area residents have contributed to this beautiful display. Included are items such as a mastodon tooth, geodes, and various stones such as lapis and quartz. Also within this exhibit are items such as an arrowhead collection found by local resident Walter Zwanziger and an African headdress donated by Pauline Seward.
The Doctor's Exhibit highlights local doctors in a display of cabinetry, a local doctor's chair and table, as well as college diplomas, and original doctor's bags.
The Prairie Farm exhibit includes items from the settlement era of Strawberry Point including handmade wooden tools, a goat treadmill, and covered wagon hoops.
The Textile display highlights a handmade loom from 1847, spinning wheels, and a variety of unique clothing items such as a 1920's Flapper wedding dress, and hand tatted wedding cap from 1905. A variety of quilts is also on display including a Farewell quilt and Double Wedding Ring quilt, utilizing feed sack material, made by local resident Florence MacTaggart.
This is just a sample of the many exhibits located within the Wilder Memorial Museum. Make plans to spend the day with us, as there are items for all ages and interests.
- Angela Beenken
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