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MOTI — Jewel of Pine Island celebrates 30 years

By Staff | Mar 4, 2020

The “Doc Carriage” and 1910 Evinrude (“Knuckle Buster”) outboard boat motor. Paulette LeBlanc

The Museum Of the Islands is celebrating 30 years in operation in 2020, and an anniversary, re-dedication and ribbon-cutting event will be held Saturday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This home for local artifacts and antiques is run by a network of volunteers, who study to preserve and keep the island’s treasures, to be enjoyed by generations to come.

Rebeca Brown is one of many MOTI volunteers who believes there is something truly special about the artifacts kept there. She emphasizes the importance of having an on-site working library for research purposes.

“We are a working museum,” said Brown, “meaning we have a lot of historical data that we collect for people who come from all over the world to reference.”

People may not be aware of the USS Pine Island, a Navy ship that was named after the island, which the volunteers are in the process of bringing here, saying this is where it belongs. Vickie Duflo, another MOTI volunteer, pointed out that the museum is in possession of genuine artifacts from people who served on the ship, which was used during World War II, as well as both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Brown pointed out a hand-beaded portrait of George Washington from 1874, made by Sarah Kuster, and her daughter Mary Kuster-Close, containing over 300,000 European glass beads, which took over 10 years to complete.

A toothed whale skull dated at possibly 5 million years old. Paulette LeBlanc

Brown also explained that the Calusa Indians were historically documented as having been on Pine Island before the pyramids were built, leaving behind several antiques which the museum now has on display. The museum, according to the volunteers, has a breakdown of the Calusa’s history on the island including the hand-manufactured shell-instruments that were made, as well as some of the genuine tools used by the tribe. In addition to the tools found at the museum are fishing nets, carved out canoes, and arrowheads. Brown said many things, such as original pot shards were found in an excavation performed on the island.

The first post-native pioneers are also on record at the museum as the earliest Pine Island settlers.

On display in the Frontier Room is a buggy, referred to as the “Doc Carriage,” because it was once used by a doctor to make house calls to the ill.

“But it wasn’t just for the doctor,” said Brown. “It was also used for other things in the community.”

Exhibited alongside the buggy is an outboard Evinrude boat motor, also known as the “Knuckle-Buster” from 1910. Duflo explained the origin of its nickname having come from the consternation it may have caused with its quick spin to anyone who attempted to crank it.

Some of the commemorative bricks in the museum entryway. Paulette LeBlanc

Duflo also explained that many of the antiques and artifacts did not originate on Pine Island, but in fact, came with people who migrated here from other places.

According to Regina Desvernine, the museum’s biggest draw for the people of Pine Island is their fascination with exploring their own local history.

“What Pine Islanders really love to see here,” said Desvernine, “are all the photographs. They love being able to find something they can really relate to, such as knowing where someone lived who they knew, or looking at the Matlacha Bridge from 50 years ago.”

The Museum of the Island is currently initiating a program to sell commemorative bricks to honor people from the community. This will help to raise funds for the museum and enable contributors to create a permanent legacy on Pine Island. The museum already displays commemorative bricks from earlier years surrounding the entrance, and this, said Desvernine, will be a welcome addition.

Every Tuesday the museum offers free classes in quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, painting, drawing and jewelry-making. Karen Hartshorne, the volunteer who teaches the classes, said people always donate more for the classes than they would ever ask.

MOTI is located at 5728 Sesame Drive, Bokeelia, Fl. 33922. For information, call 239-283-1525.

Museum hours are: May-October — Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; and November-April,

Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.