THE first museum outside the island dedicated to the Isle of Man has opened in the USA.
People from the island began populating a small region in Plattville, Wisconsin, in the 1840s in what’s known as the Laxey and Broomfield neighbourhoods.
The Manx farmed, mined and, in 1855, built what is believed to be the only Manx church in North America.
And now, thanks to the efforts of some hard-working descendants, the first and only museum in North America dedicated to Manx history and culture is open on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in the town.
‘The word has to get out,’ Mary Kelly, whose grandfather moved from the Isle of Man when he was 12 years old in 1874, told the Wisconsin State Journal. ‘We’ve lost track of our Manx heritage and that’s a problem.’
The opening of the North American Manx Museum is intended to educate and preserve Manx artefacts, and coincided with the 51st biennial North American Manx Convention.
That four-day event attracted about 80 people from 11 states and the Isle of Man to Platteville, and concluded with visits to the Laxey Cemetery, where many Manx are buried, and to the Linden Methodist Church.
Robert Kelly of Rockford, honorary president of the association but no relation to Mary Kelly, donated $100,000 to the cause and artefacts of equal value, including a Manx Bible published in 1819.
‘It’s a good fit and helps tell the story of southwest Wisconsin,’ said James Hibbard, an archivist with the university who oversees the museum.
Other artefacts in the collection include part of an iron rub rail from the Star of India, a ship built in 1863 in Ramsey and which is now in San Diego, California, where she’s reputedly the oldest working ship in the world.
Other things on display include maps, flags, pottery, badges and an old bottle from the Downward’s Soda Company in the island. The collection also includes about 30 novels by Hall Caine.
Mary Kelly has visited the island several times and has imported Manx cats four times.
Most people in Wisconsin are probably unaware of the Manx and their role in the state’s history.
‘That’s why we’re having the museum – people are clueless,’ said Jody Morey, whose great-grandfather, John Beck, came from the island. She is chairwoman of the Manx convention and incoming president of the association.
The museum includes an interactive electronic version of The Chronicles of Mann, a history of the island and a stone archway that represents Peel Castle.
In 1982, there were about 125 members in the Wisconsin Manx Society, but that number has dwindled to about 75 today.
‘It’s just such a small country, and there are fewer of us,’ said Morey. ‘It’s a unique heritage. So we’re all slightly enthusiastic.’
With thanks to the Wisconsin State Journal
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Weather for Isle of Man
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west