By Mary Ann Bourbeau
HIGHLANDS – Where else can you tour a museum with millions of dollars in artifacts, get a U.S. history lesson and a phenomenal view of Sandy Hook Bay, all in the same place?
Head on over to the Twin Lights Museum, which recently reopened after a top-to-bottom renovation. The museum has a new exhibit called “Seeing Stars: Every Flag Tells a Story.” The exhibit tells the story of the United States through its flags and celebrates the historic day in 1893 when the Twin Lights was the site of the first reading of the Pledge of Allegiance, America’s national oath of loyalty.
The 1,000-square-foot museum now contains four separate galleries with state-of-the-art lighting and multiple video screens for an immersive experience. “Seeing Stars” features more than 20 rare American flags dating as far back as the 18th century. Some of these flags have never been on display before. The exhibit shows how the flag changed as the country expanded, and how it helped pull America through war and conflict.
In addition to the flags, the exhibit features a host of other patriotic art and artifacts, including “September 11th,” a painting by Jamie Wyeth on loan to the museum. After visiting the World Trade Center site post- 9/11, Wyeth was inspired to create the mixed media piece depicting the American flag being raised amid the destruction.
Also on display is “Our Banner in the Sky,” painted by Frederic Church in the early days of the Civil War. Other artifacts include a 4-foot figure of Uncle Sam holding a flag, which was created for the 1876 Centennial, and a valuable Bellamy eagle carved by New England folk artist John Haley Bellamy. Some of Bellamy’s works have been sold at auctions for more than half a million dollars.
Many volunteers from the Twin Lights Historical Society worked tirelessly over the past three years, overseeing the museum’s renovation and acquiring the items for this exhibit, which features more than $2 million in artifacts. Contributions came from the Monmouth County Historical Association, Monmouth University and private collectors, including Richard Pierce of New Jersey and Peter Keim, M.D. of Texas, both noted authors and historians.
“This was a true collaboration of a group of diverse volunteers from various backgrounds and professions who overcame numerous obstacles in order to bring this patriotic exhibit to life,” said Mary Jo Kenny, president of the Twin Lights Historical Society.
The Twin Lights Museum, located at the National Historic Landmark lighthouse, draws more than 75,000 visitors each year. Situated 200 feet above sea level, it shone the brightest light in North America for generations of seafarers navigating the treacherous coastal waters of Northern New Jersey. The original Twin Lights was built in 1828 but fell into disrepair and was rebuilt from local brownstone in 1862 by architect Joseph Lederle.
The “Seeing Stars” exhibit runs through fall 2016. During the winter, the museum is open 10 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. For more information, visit www.twinlightslighthouse.com.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MaryAnnBourbeau.
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