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Historical Museum to open new building today with ceremony

By Staff | Nov 19, 2008

History will have a new place to call home starting today, as the Cape Coral Historical Museum welcomes the opening of its third building at a special ceremony starting at 1 p.m.

The Clint and Sue Kelly Building will have a multitude of new exhibits celebrating the unique and storied history of the Cape.

An extensive native collection featuring tools, arrowheads and other assorted artifacts will join an exhibit dedicated to the city’s multiple departments.

“It’s quite an attraction, I think. We’re excited about it,” said Anne Cull, the museum’s lone paid employee. “We really want people to see it.”

The new building joins other new exhibits scattered throughout the museum. According to Cull, the Gulf American building now boasts displays of the Nautilus Inn and the Surfside Restaurant, two of the original businesses in the Cape.

“We have some really, really interesting exhibits,” Cull said excitedly.

The new building’s namesake honors Clint and Sue Kelly, who donated their vast collection of American Indian artifacts and shells — not to mention a substantial monetary donation to get the ball rolling.

“We had some things we were interested in contributing so we decided to take our relics to the museum,” Kelly said.

The story of Kelly’s vast collection started in 1918, when he discovered his first arrowhead when he was only 3 years old in rural lllinois.

The collection steadily grew over the years, eventually incorporating a large number of shells he and his wife collected when they began visiting Sanibel in the early 1970s.

After the collection became enormous, the Kellys decided they needed a place to put it all.

They approached the museum about building an addition to one of the existing buildings — the Rosen and Gulf American buildings — but after being shot down by the Cape Coral City Council, Kelly thought the best course of action would be to just go ahead and build something from scratch.

“I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘Let’s build a building,'” Kelly said of his meeting with Fred Cull, a museum board member. “And it fits beautifully between the other two. It’s ideal.”

Unfortunately, Sue Kelly is not around to see the unveiling of her and Clint’s collection. She died in 1999.

Yet, her legacy lives on, maybe much longer than anyone — her husband included — could possibly imagine.

“I have a deep feeling for it,” Kelly said of the museum. “If the earth stands and the world stands and we don’t have a fire, the relics will stand for a thousand years.”

The festivities kick off at 1 p.m., with refreshments, a recognition of people who have volunteered their time to the museum and a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Kelly. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Anne Cull at 772-7037.