A December road trip took me on a journey to three museums not to be missed in St. Petersburg that featured aviation, history and the art of glass work. There is always plenty to do in central Florida but these three museums are well worth a visit.
St. Petersburg Museum of History
The museum sits on St. Petersburg’s Harbor. The history of St. Petersburg is chronicled here. The museum has undertaken the archiving of all the back issues of the St. Pete times. This is a massive undertaking for the museum. Curator, Nevin Sitler gave me an immersive tour of the museum.
The first scheduled airline service
Benoist aviation first flew in January 1914 from St. Pete to Tampa. The flight took twenty-two minutes from St. Pete to Tampa and was most certainly a thrill ride for the five-dollar fare. While the flights only lasted three months. The regularly scheduled flights set in motion the start of commercial air service today Here is a link to learn more about the flight.
The Benoist flag flown on that inaugural flight in 1914, flew on the space shuttle Discovery’s final flight in March 2011. It circled the Earth nearly 100 years after aviation had come to St. Pete.
Baseball in St. Petersburg
Spring Training is one of the most important roles in the history of St. Pete. It has been held in the city since the early 1910s. The museum featured a temporary exhibit about baseball from Dennis Schrader. Schrader is a collector of autographed baseballs and you can see them all here. It was a fascinating look at the all-time greats of the game as well as a history lesson on both world and local events. The museum had created a timeline that included real world events in relation to the baseball milestones.
St. Petersburg history
The history of St. Pete was told in two main gallery exhibits. Having driven to the museum, I enjoyed the photographs of the grand hotels of a by-gone era that catered to the elite. Sadly, some did not survive the progress of the ensuing years. The ‘Green benches’ of St. Pete are highlighted in the struggle for civil rights in Florida.
The St. Petersburg History Museum located in the heart of St. Pete is well worth your time to learn about the history of the evolution of the city and St. Pete’s contribution to aviation.
Chihuly Collection at Moran Arts Center
Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned glass artist. Having visited his museum in Seattle, I was excited to view some of his incredible creations at Moran Art Center in St. Pete. After viewing the collection, visitors can view a glass blowing demonstration. I encourage visitors to see such demonstrations where you learn the challenges of glass blowing and what true artisans do to create breathtaking glass marvels. The glass blowing demo is included in the admission.
Glass is made from sand and sand is derived from stardust. Perhaps that is why the art of glass blowing fascinates me. Walking into Imagine Glass in St. Pete was entering an idyllic world for me. Imagine has two levels of fantastically crafted glass pieces. Surrounded in each gallery by master artists from around the world who tamed the molten substance, I was mesmerized.
Imagine’s director, Jane Buckman gave me an immersive tour of the collection. The museum opened in 2018. Glass artist Trish Duggan is the woman behind Imagine Glass. You will see many of Duggan’s creations at Imagine. There are 400 pieces on display and some 1600 in Imagines’ collection. Jane said that most visitors to museums take between three to seven seconds to look at exhibits. At Imagine you are able to ‘lean in’ to the exhibits, but please don’t touch.
We started the tour with the history of glass. Beginning with an Egyptian glass displayed a tole pot.
Egyptians used the pots to adorn their faces and bodies using tar to repel flies.
It’s not always Black and White
This large exhibit is a showcase of international glass artists. The pieces look so simple but are incredibly complicated to construct.
Jane gave me some history of glass art as we viewed the collection. It was not until the late 20th century that saw the beginning of glass as art in America. The Italians came to teach the Americans the discipline of glass as art but the Americans added freedom of expression to the Italian’s discipline. In the 1960s, American artists moved the furnace from the factory to the artist’s studio.
Here are a few photographs of some of the pieces from the collection.
Duggan’s creation of One thousand Buddha heads is one of the most photographed items in the museum
Duggan created the Blue Madonna installation after she purchased the mask mold on eBay which included its province. The mold had been taken from the Pieta by Michelangelo in Italy. The vases that accompany each selection have ‘mother’ written in various languages. Here is a brief video of the installation.
In the large museum store, you will find many purchasable glass items.
You can see some of Imagines’ collections here. Only by visiting Imagine Glass and leaning into the exhibits, you will fill your soul with the beauty found in the pieces of stardust.