By Martie Thompson
Taking a step back in time when entering the Mandarin Museum at Walter Jones Historical Park has become a bit snug lately, due to the continued growth of the museum and its diverse collections. According to Sandy Arpen, president of the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society’s board of directors, the museum has outgrown its building primarily as a result of the popularity of the Maple Leaf exhibit, which in 2014 celebrated the 150th anniversary of the steamship’s sinking off Mandarin Point.
“The space that we previously used to exhibit art by Mandarin artists is now used for Maple Leaf and other Civil War artifacts,” Arpen said, referring to the smaller room off the main exhibit hall.
According to Dr. Keith Holland, the local dentist and diver who spearheaded the effort to locate and salvage the Maple Leaf wreck, “Mandarin Museum & Historical Society is the most logical place for the public to access Maple Leaf’s historical significance and to memorialize those that died for the benefit of many.”
The Maple Leaf artifacts are stored in Tallahassee at the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources. They loan artifacts to museums like the Mandarin Museum, which has the largest number of Maple Leaf artifacts on display.
Additionally, the museum’s archive and storage room is overflowing with items that Arpen and other museum volunteers would like to display.
So plans have been drawn for a two-room addition to the museum building: one a designated Maple Leaf gallery, that would free up the original space for rotating art exhibits, and a larger archival room that would allow the museum’s collections to be properly stored as well as provide work space to care for important historical objects.
This is a big undertaking for a volunteer driven organization, but Arpen said it is off to a great start. Fundraising has begun with a goal to raise $100,000 needed to apply for a matching State of Florida facilities grant in June 2018.
“We are well on our way with almost $55,000 raised to date,” Arpen said. “This is due to the generosity of many donors, donations received at the museum and the sale of the Mandarin frogs, of which we have designated 60 percent of the proceeds for the expansion.”
Additionally, the Rotary Club of Mandarin has announced a partnership with the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society for 2018 — proceeds from the group’s annual fundraiser, Laughs for Charity, will benefit the museum’s expansion. This annual event typically draws more than 300 guests to the Mandarin Comedy Club and helps the Mandarin Rotary raise more than $40,000 each year. The date of the event will be announced in early 2018.
“We are very excited to be selected as a fundraising recipient by the Mandarin Rotary,” Arpen said. “We are so pleased to have lots of sponsors as well as many community members who have stepped up. It is truly a community effort and we have the next few months to push to reach our goal.”
Arpen said that if they do receive the grant, construction still wouldn’t begin until 2019. Architect Bob McVeigh, a Mandarin resident, has provided the architectural work pro bono.
The Mandarin Museum & Historical Society began in 1989 when a group of citizens became concerned about the loss of historical structures in Mandarin and were interested in preserving and celebrating the rich heritage and history of the area. The first major project conducted by the organization was restoring the 1911 Walter Jones General Store and Post Office, which served in the heart of the community until it closed in 1964. In 2004, a partnership opportunity with the City of Jacksonville began and the current Mandarin Museum building was built in the Walter Jones Historical Park to house the organization’s collection and to bring history alive through exhibits and programs. With the opening of the 1898 St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children in 2016, the organization now manages five historic structures, plus the museum, and has successful, diverse and growing visitation and a variety of educational programs.
For more information, call (904) 268-0784. To donate, mail to Mandarin Museum, PO Box 23601 Jacksonville, FL 32241 or stop by the museum at 11964 Mandarin Road any Saturday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The Mandarin Museum is a 501 (c ) 3 organization.
Photo courtesy Mandarin Museum and Historical Society
Mandarin Museum, located at 11964 Mandarin Road, has expansion plans.