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The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, Wisconsin, specializes–of course–in glass. And glass, as you’ll find when you visit, is an art form that’s as varied and beautiful as any other art you can name.

Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass, situated in Neenah, Wisconsin, provides free admission to its collection on a year-round basis. While it has five permanent collections, its main collection has over 3000 pieces, and  is the most representative collections of its type in the world.

What do you think these glass objects from such famous 1800s French glass factories as Clichy and Baccarat are? Click on the tabs above to find out.

The main collection of the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass is paperweights. The glass paperweight collection began in 1958, with a gift of 652 paperweights from Mrs. Evangeline Bergstrom, wife of John Nelson Bergstrom. In 1951, he had left a substantial amount of money to the city of Neenah to establish the museum.

Mrs. Bergstrom had been fascinated with glass paperweights from childhood, although she didn’t begin seriously collecting them until 1935. In 1939 her collection was shown at The Art Institute of Chicago, and photos were soon picked up in publications around the U.S.

In 1953, Mrs. Bergstrom gave the Tudor mansion she and her husband had built in 1929-30, along with its lakeshore property, to serve as the site for a museum.

Paperweights as Art

Mega World, 1991, by Josh Simpson

Mega World, 1991, by Josh Simpson.

Mega World, the paperweight above, uses millefiori or murrina techniques to create the sculptured appearance of the earth. The water color is created with colored glass.

If you’re interested in learning more about these beautiful glass objects, you can spend a few virtual minutes with Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass staff in this video from WLUK-TV FOX 11.

Efforts to found the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass took off in 1954, led by Ernest Mahler, Chairman of the Board. It took five years to bring it all together, so the John Nelson Bergstrom Art Center opened on April 5, 1959. Now, nearly sixty years later, the museum is called the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass, and is run by a private foundation, Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, Inc. that leases the museum building from the city of Neenah.

The museum also has four additional permanent collections:

  • Germanic Glass
  • Contemporary Glass
  • Victorian Glass
  • Other glass objects such as buttons (it has 300 early glass buttons)
Gift shop at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Gift shop at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Classes at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

I love glass art, and was thrilled to learn that I could make some art of my own at the museum. Classes are offered year-round, with new and exciting things to do every month from a key chain to a glass fish.

The museum studio has two Paragon kilns for fusing your artistic creations, along with Carlisle torches for flameworking and hand torches for networking glass.

During my visit, we did some glass cutting with colored bottles to make small vases. It was fun!

Glass cutting

You can learn more about visiting the museum to check out all the amazing paperweights and other glass objects, or to take a class, on the museum’s website at: http://bmmglass.com/

Acknowledgements

I visited Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass during a visit hosted by Fox Cities, Wisconsin.