By MADDY VITALE
Weeks turned into months and Sea Isle City Historical Museum President Abby Powell and the other volunteers grew anxious for the reopening — missing the relics tucked inside the Cape May County Library building.
“We weren’t able to come into the museum because of where we are located until the library reopened on Oct. 19,” Powell said Thursday, referring to the COVID-19 mandatory shutdown of public buildings.
She spoke from the back porch of the museum overlooking the marshlands.
“In the beginning, I was like everyone else thinking that it would be just a couple of weeks. If I had known it would be months, I would have taken binders with me to post photos on our Facebook page,” Powell noted. “I posted some photos, but I was limited to what I had on my cellphone.”
Powell and the volunteers are ready and welcoming guests back to the museum while following all safety protocols, including social distancing and limiting capacity.
Hours are limited, however, now that the museum has reopened. Visiting hours are Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon.
“I spent the last week cleaning. I had to update my computer and return about 40 phone calls. We didn’t have too much dust because we are in a temperature controlled building, but we had a lot of cobwebs, which I thought was fitting,” Powell said with a laugh.
One of those calls Powell had to return was from a resident who had a piece of buried treasure he wished to donate. Two plates were discovered in a dive off of Sea Isle’s Townsends Inlet. The diver uncovered the dishes in 1975 from what was believed to be a shipwreck dating back to 1875, Powell said.
“We have to research this,” she added.
Powell held up the plates, showcasing the pristine condition. She said that while they aren’t worth a lot of money, the back story makes them unbelievable finds.
“I thought they were neat,” she said.
While Powell displayed the plates, three of the museum volunteers flipped through old photographs and arranged some of the exhibits.
Out of about 22 volunteers that make up the staff at the museum, 12 returned.
Powell, along with three volunteers, Doug Williamson, Mary Anninos and Nancy McAnany, all of Sea Isle, spoke of how it was good to be back.
Williamson said that he was happy to be helping out in a museum that is an integral part of the Sea Isle community and its history.
“It is good to see that we are at the point where we can open back up. It is an important part of Sea Isle,” Williamson pointed out.
He continued, “So many new people have moved into Sea Isle who could learn a lot about Sea Isle from the museum, and people will see that there is so much here.”
Outside of the museum in the library atrium is a glass case that holds the last display Powell created before the pandemic. It was to celebrate February’s Polar Bear Plunge of 2020.
Upon entering the museum, returning visitors and new visitors will see popular displays, including the iconic military exhibit.
It features a service uniform and a wedding gown worn by longtime residents Joe and Alice LaRosa.
The “couple” is prominently featured in the center of the display, highlighting the love and marriage of the LaRosas on April 14, 1945.
Other uniforms in the exhibit were worn by Sea Isle residents who served in the military, including local historian and former Sea Isle Mayor Mike McHale.
“This is really one of my favorites,” Anninos, a longtime volunteer, said of the display as she straightened Alice LaRosa’s wedding gown.
The military exhibit will remain up through Veterans Day, Powell noted.
After that time, the bridal gown display, which highlights lavish and more modest gowns of yesteryear, will return.
Some new additions to the museum were created right before the March 12 closure, but have not yet been seen by most visitors to the museum.
Red bowls in the shape of crabs were added pieces of memorabilia to the Cronecker’s Hotel and Restaurant display.
The restaurant, which was a mainstay on the island from the 1800s through the 1950s, was a favorite attraction with an interesting history as it went through changes over the years.
A card on top of the crab bowls explains how Cronecker’s would fill the crab bowls with, what else, crab meat for guests who would return the bowls in an honor system.
For more information about the Sea Isle City Historical Museum, visit www.seaislemuseum.com, on Facebook or call (609) 263-2992.