Angel Museum Among Us -
International attraction in Beloit
When I stepped through the wooden entrance to the world’s only Angel Museum, I glanced to the right, surprised to see a world map poked full of pins representing the homelands of countless people traversing our part of Wisconsin.
The love that Joyce Berg, owner of the collection, feels towards the Angel Museum was evident to me immediately. As we moved throughout the museum, passing and pausing at various shelves filled with angel figurines, Berg told stories about the angels.
Before the Berg angel collection grew wings
Joyce Berg and her husband Lowell began collecting angels in 1976. Berg motioned me to look into one of the cases filled with angels, and then pointed out their first angel figurine that they purchased in Florida on a vacation.
“We got caught up in the different ways artists can make angels,” Berg admitted about a reason why she loved adding to their haloed possessions. She added that currently, there are about 14,000 angels in the collection.
From that point on, the Berg couple made it priority — as they encountered tall, short, thin, chubby, graceful, and colorful angels while vacationing across the North American continent – to increase their host of heavenly beings.
Later, Berg explained that that presence of angels actually began before she and Lowell got their first angelic figurine. When the two married, they received two angels dressed in navy blue dresses for Christmas from parents. Additionally, the couple found a box that belonged to an older grandparent, and they found a belt buckle that had bubbly cherubs on its front.
After collecting about 100 angels, Lowell Berg suggested to his wife that they probably should begin cataloging their angelic flock. Eventually, it became clear that all of their angels needed new clouds and shelves to rest their harps upon.
The Bergs took it to be a sign when the St. Paul Catholic Church property became available, and it became the home of the Angel Museum. The church had closed previously, and Beloit College briefly used it for storage.
Berg directed my attention to a lit-up case where an old man, with a halo and wings, sat in a rocking chair with a mug of coffee and a crossword puzzle in his other hand. Berg explained that this particular angel represented her husband, who passed away in 2003.
In the presence of an angel
I noticed how the museum interior still echoes the intimate feeling of a modest-sized cathedral as the sun shined through the colorful, circular stained glass windows onto the floor.
There is also hushed silence in the central space, which is filled with all sorts of angels, no two the same. Berg explained that it is not uncommon for visiting tourists to get weepy-eyed when entering the museum, especially when she is wearing her silvery angel gown and halo to greet people.
“Some people come in the door with tears,” Berg said, then smiling. “I can move people to tears when I wear my [angel] costume. It’s about what people feel in their hearts.”
Oprah makes a comment; museum receives more winged celestial angels
In 1998, a few years after the museum opened, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey made a comment on her show about whether there were any black angels in existence.
Oprah viewers quickly responded in droves. And, eventually, about 600 of these black angels flew their way to Beloit after Oprah donated them due to the public outpouring of black angel figurines.
Another attention grabber, circa 2001
As I further toured the museum with Berg, I saw an open book with her pictured, wearing her angel costume. I asked her how she got her picture in the book. Berg said that she didn’t expect to see her winged self in the 2008 edition of “The Guinness Book of World Records.”
Fun Beloit fact: The aforementioned records book certified that the Berg Angel Collection possesses the “largest private collection of angel figurines.”
Angels among us
The Angel Museum brochure states the establishment is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). The building upkeep and services are mainly run with the heaven-sent assistance of volunteers and executive committee.
In the lower level, pictures of both current and past volunteers, or as Berg referred to as “angels” who are essential to the museum, filled up an entire frame.
Berg expressed her thankfulness for these people who truly feel connected and supportive of the museum as they attend to needed tasks so visitors also share the love of angels with the dedicated volunteer “angels” too.
When Berg took me downstairs to see the gift shop and the “Taste of Heaven Cafe,” she spoke with me about the history of the immediate area where the museum stands. Black and white pictures of past buildings, houses, and businesses lined a different wall.
And, the more I listened to Berg’s stories, the more intrigued I became as the city’s history became more alive and accessible to my mind.
As evidenced by the careful but thorough gathering of pictures and information, Berg and others who are actively involved care deeply about the angels and Beloit. This heaven-sent Angel Museum, indeed, and Berg’s passion and enthusiasm certainly uplifted me.
Angel Museum – 656 Pleasant Ave – Beloit, WI, 53511
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
The museum is closed from Dec. 22 – March