Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A must-see Wisconsin museum features paperweights, really old glassware & more May 1, 2014

THEY JOKED ABOUT MY SUGGESTION we tour a paperweight museum.

The museum is housed in an historic home (and addition) along the shores of Lake Winnebago across from a park.

The museum is housed in an historic home (and addition) along the shores of Lake Winnebago across from a park.

But they weren’t laughing once we arrived at the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah, Wisconsin.

My husband, Randy, checking out a section of paperweights.

My husband, Randy, checking out a section of paperweights.

If I’d done my research rather than simply skimming a website, I could have advised my husband and daughter Miranda that the museum features more than one of the world’s largest collections of antique and contemporary glass paperweights.

Much more.

Examples of the beautiful glassware.

Examples of the beautiful glassware.

This museum and glass studio housed in a 1929 Tudor mansion and addition along the west shore of Lake Winnebago also showcases really old Germanic glassware. We’re talking glass spanning three centuries, the earliest dating to 1573.

This is some aged glassware.

This is some aged glassware.

“Impressed now?” I asked them. And they were.

One of the contemporary sculptures displayed.

One of the contemporary sculptures displayed.

To impress us even more, the museum includes an exhibit of exquisite contemporary glass sculptures, some part of the permanent collection and some on loan. I was allowed to photograph only those pieces that are owned by the museum.

gigantic paperweight

The Super Magnum Piedouche is one of 10 such paperweights created. This one is dated 1973 and weighs 55 pounds.

All through-out our visit, I wondered at the value of the thousands—2,300 objects in the paperweight collection alone—of pieces shown. An inquiry of a museum worker did not elicit a value, although I learned that the museum is currently attempting to purchase a certain contemporary sculpture and still needs to raise $9,000. She didn’t know how much had already been raised. I imagine a lot.

A close-up side view of a paperweight.

A close-up side view of a paperweight.

And to think this all started with Evangeline Bergstrom’s memories of playing with her grandmother’s paperweight.

These paperweights are truly works of art.

These paperweights are truly works of art.

Long story short (and you can read the long story by clicking here), Evangeline’s husband, John Nelson Bergstrom, bequeathed the couple’s home to the city of Neenah with instructions to build a museum upon his wife’s death for her paperweight collection.

In 1959, that museum opened, imprinting the legacy of the Bergstroms (John co-founded the Bergstrom Paper Company with this father) upon this eastern Wisconsin city.

A carved enamel goblet, ca. 1860, Bohemia.

A carved enamel goblet, ca. 1860, Bohemia.

Likewise, another paper industry leader and Neenah native, Ernst Mahler, gifted a glass collection to the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum. In 1994, the museum received the Germanic glassware Mahler had purchased in 1931 in Austria for his wife, Carol.

History and art detailed on glasses.

History and art detailed on glasses.

I found this aged glassware especially intriguing given the detailed scenes on many of the pieces. It’s fabulous art.

Dated 1693. Cheers.

Dated 1693. Cheers.

If only we could have sampled a dark German beer in one of those over-sized glasses…

Bottom line, don’t underestimate the appeal of a paperweight collection even if you, like my daughter, consider paperweights to be rather useless. Those in the Bergstrom collection possess great artistic and historical value well worth viewing, well worth appreciating.

Detailed floral art on glassware.

Detailed floral art on glassware.

Ditto for the other glass art featured in the museum.

Glassware in an array of colors.

Glassware in an array of colors.

FYI: The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, 165 North Park Avenue, Neenah, is open from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and from 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sundays, closed holidays and a few other days.

Admission is, get this, free, although donations are welcome.

mandalas

Fifth and sixth graders at Edison Elementary School in Appleton studied Tibetan Sand Mandalas and then created paper versions, temporarily on display in the lower level of the museum.

At the time of our visit in late March, glass pieces created by students in the Fox Valley area were exhibited. But I was not allowed to photograph these works, some of them mighty impressive.

Annually, the museum’s collection of Victorian glass baskets are also shown, primarily during the spring and summer.

TO VIEW ANOTHER post from the community of Neenah, Wisconsin, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One hip, vintage & retro shop in Neenah, Wisconsin April 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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The signage on Vintique, 131 West Wisconsin Avenue, Neenah, Wisconsin.

The signage on Vintique, 131 West Wisconsin Avenue, Neenah, Wisconsin.

I LOVE THIS BOUTIQUE in downtown Neenah, Wisconsin.

Audrey's Closet, likely named after Audrey Hepburn and not me, holds vintage 50s clothing.

Audrey’s Closet, likely named after Audrey Hepburn and not me, holds vintage 50s clothing.

Not just because a section of vintage 1950s clothing is tucked into a space labeled Audrey’s Closet.

Love Story framed.

Love Story framed.

And not simply because of the Love Story album cover framed and posted on a stairway wall. Love Story, released in 1970, rates as one of my favorite movies. I was 14 then, falling for Ryan O’Neal and this heart-tugging love story co-starring Ali MacGraw. I tacked a poster of the couple onto the lime green walls of my basement bedroom with the candy striped carpet.

I digress. Sort of.

A vintage 1950s wardrobe in Audrey's Closet.

A vintage 1950s wardrobe in Audrey’s Closet.

Vintique, LLC, elicits this type of response—this embracing of the past—with the merchandise offered here. If you appreciate vintage, antique, boutique and unique, then this is your kind of shop. Vintique.

My daughter tried on the elegant black dress along the far wall in this room full of vintage clothing.

My daughter tried on the elegant black dress along the far wall in this  second floor room full of vintage and retro clothing and other merchandise.

If not for my daughter Miranda, who lives in neighboring Appleton, I likely never would have discovered this shop in the heart of a cozy downtown that features a mix of historic and modern buildings. How well she knows me and my appreciation of vintage.

Clothing from the 1960s found in the Laugh-in & Goldie's Style Closet.

Clothing from the 1960s found in the Laugh-in & Goldie’s Style Closet.

Now if only I was a few decades younger and dress sizes smaller, I’d feel comfortable in the actual and replica retro and vintage clothing sold at Vintique. But I’m well past the age of trying to look young and hip. Some older women can carry that off; I’m not one of them.

Just look at those prints...

Just look at those prints…

That didn’t stop me, though, from gushing over the vintage and retro clothing and accessories. Had you listened in, you would have overheard me saying, “If I was looking for a prom dress…if I was getting married…if I was going to a summer wedding…if I was younger…”

Vintage white pumps for a special occasion.

Vintage white pumps for a special occasion perch on a shelf above a rack of clothes.

Not that age should stop anyone from shopping Vintique. Had I really searched, I’m certain I would have found something that fit me and suited my style and age.

 

Vintage jewelry galore.

Vintique rates as one cool (yes, I am a child of the 70s) place with other funky finds like vintage jewelry,

 

A funky hat.

hats,

 

Vintage shoes

shoes and purses;

Little people

Little People key chains; pillows; art; and more.

A section of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Neenah, Wisconsin.

A section of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Neenah, Wisconsin.

Vintique, at 131 West Wisconsin Avenue.

Downtown Neenah features historic buildings.

Downtown Neenah features historic buildings.

That’s in Neenah, south of Appleton, southwest of Green Bay.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling