How long have you lived in Toledo? Whether you answer “Born and raised” or “Just moved here last week” I am sure that there are areas, events, landmarks, and celebrations in the Great Glass City you don’t know about. Believe it or not, and this goes out to all you that may think the grass is greener elsewhere, Toledo is a rich area for everything AWESOME! Decades upon decades have made Toledo what it is today, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the AMAZING! So to continue the celebration of everything Toledo it’s time for our next installment of ‘Buried Treasures of Toledo’!
THE BLAIR MUSEUM OF LITHOPHANES
I’m sure if you are a born and raised Toledoan you have been to or heard of The Toledo Botanical Gardens. But did you know that within the Toledo Botanical Gardens lies a hidden Toledo treasure? That’s right, hidden inside the gardens is The Blair Museum of Lithophanes. So what is a lithophane you ask?
A lithophane is an etched or molded artwork in thin very translucent porcelain that can only be seen clearly when back lit with a light source. A lithophane presents a three dimensional image; completely different from that of a two dimensional image. The images change characteristics depending on the light source behind them. Window lithophane panel scenes change throughout the day depending upon the amount of sunlight. The varying light source is what makes lithophanes more interesting to the viewer than two dimensional pictures.
First created in Europe in the 1820s, the largest collection of this 19th century art form in the world is now on view at the Blair Museum of Lithophanes. Lithophane is a term derived from the Greek litho meaning stone and phainen meaning to cause to appear. This Greek derivation has proven confusing to people who might know some basic Greek, but do not know that lithophanes have nothing to do with stone or a stone product, but are made of porcelain.
The Toledo museum was founded by Laurel Gotshall Blair (1909-1993), a native Toledoan whose father had opened the Blair Realty and Investment Company in 1908. In the 1920s, Blair Realty was a major developer in Toledo, responsible for the creation of the upscale Heatherdowns with its very own country club. Mr. Blair attended Scott High School and the University of Michigan, and like his father before him, served as President of the Toledo Board of Realtors.
Laurel Blair, first discovered lithophanes in October 1961; stating “he fell in love” when first seeing the beautifully illuminated art forms. Mr. Blair, over the next several decades, gathered the largest collection of lithophanes in the world. In the March of 1965, Mr. Blair opened a private museum in his home, displaying more than a third of his collection of over 2,300 lithophanes.
Prior to his death in 1993, Mr. Blair donated his collection to the City of Toledo. Dedicated volunteers worked diligently for nearly ten years, photographing and cataloguing the collection, and overseeing the renovation of a building located at the Toledo Botanical Garden. In July 2002, the new museum opened to the public in its transformed space.
In January 2004, Dr. Margaret Carney, the first museum curator since Laurel Blair, was hired. Working with the Advisory Board and City representatives, the museum curator has revised its membership program, expanded its public hours, offers special changing exhibitions annually, and authored the first book on the subject of lithophanes in 180 years. In July, 2012, Kelly Sheehan took over leadership as Director, to continue the growth of the Museum.
Take a trip to this amazing Toledo rarity! There aren’t many like it and there is one right here in Toledo for all of us to enjoy. Thank you for reading this weeks addition of ‘Buried Treasures of Toledo’ come back to read more of what this amazing city can offer!
*Information taken from http://www.lithophanemuseum.org/index.html, visit page for more information or to plan a trip to this amazing Toledo location!