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MMD > Archives > December 1997 > 1997.12.30 > 03Prev  Next

Bellm's (no longer) Museum in Sarasota
By Beatrice Robertson

Hi folks,  As a long time friend of Walt & Ellen Bellm, I couldn't be
happier that they have retired and are enjoying their travels; they
have just returned from Russia.  However, for those of us who enjoyed
any chance to stop at the Museum in Sarasota, the sale is a tragedy.

The new owner is a car dealer -- nothing more.  An auction was held the
first week of Dec.  and there were to be "200 music boxes" according to
the sale flyer.  Not only were there NO music boxes, but some of the
cars pictured and advertised were also not there.  Fortunately, most of
the good mechanical music pieces were NOT sold with the museum, but
have been sold to collectors or taken home by the Bellm's.

The reason some of the items are not played is that nearly all the
mechanical music that is left still belongs to Walt, but the museum is
responsible for care and maintenance.  So, rather than risk the cost of
any repairs, they don't play them.

The staff is pathetic!  The ladies who had been there for years were let
go and new staff was hired, but not educated at all.  When we were
there, the gal asked if anyone knew what a pushup was - I raised my
hand that I did.  She responded "no, you don't" and went on with her
inaccurate and vastly silly spiel.  Norman is correct, the instruments
are in horrid condition.  Probably the saddest part was seeing Walt and
Ellen there and having Walt tell me not to bother to go to the music

As I have mentioned in the past, it is very sad to see the many museums
in the US and abroad being dismantled into private collections.  It
makes it even more important for all of us to share our collections in
whatever way we can, whether it means hauling a few instruments to the
local historical society, or putting on a fine exhibit as Bill and
Carol Wineburgh have recently done, or participating in a public
function such as a band organ rally.

Chances are slim that there will be public museums such as Bellm's or
the Miles again.  We are fortunate that people like Jasper Sanfilippo,
the Gilstrap's, Krughoff's, the Milhous brothers, and several others
have the means to restore and maintain the marvelous collections they
have, and are willing to share them through books and recordings and
occasionally through open houses and tours.  But it is important for
all of us to share, no matter how small your collection.  Otherwise we
sure can't complain that the next generation (s) are unfamiliar with
the wonderful sounds of mechanical music.

End of soap box for today!

Beatrice Robertson

(Message sent Tue 30 Dec 1997, 13:32:46 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Bellm's, longer, Museum, no, Sarasota

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