I grew up in a small Central Illinois town called Pontiac. At the time, there was not much to do. Since I was in middle school, the town has been growing its tourist department, especially based on Route 66 travelling. There is actually a lot to do, and makes for a great weekend getaway from urban hustle and bustle. It is small, quaint, and quite pretty. Similar story to a smaller Ontario town. They have really done a lot, worked hard at it, and it shows.
What brought me to write an article about something there was the Museum of the Gilding Arts in downtown.
Back story time. Since I lost my job at State Farm, and I had not opened my travel agency yet, so I needed to kill a lot more free time than usual. I volunteered for a community theatre group in Pontiac called Vermillion Players. In October, the group did a play at the Eagle Theatre, and I was informed that the ornamentation around the stage was laid on1. with gold leaf. Also, the manager of the museum was also in the play, and set me up on a personal tour of the Gilding Arts museum, and with an interview with the president of the Society of Gilders, who opened the museum.
In 1988, professional gilders all over the world came together to share ideas to create the Society of Gilders. In the past gilding was a secretive trade: the gilding masters kept their secrets of the trade from everyone, including other gilding masters.2. The opening of the Society opened up those secrets among the differing gilding craftsmen.
Back in 2009, the Walldogs came into town and painted 18 murals in the downtown area. One of those Walldog members, named Joe, was also a member of the Society of Gilders. He liked the town of Pontiac, and knew that the society was looking for a location to open a museum. M. Swift & Sons in Hartford, CT were the last hand beaten gold manufacturer in America. Now, gold leaf is made by machine. They donated the old hand beaters and other contents from their factory to the Society for display. Among the choices they had available, they chose Pontiac. Now, that display is open permanently for free3.
I definitely recommend taking a weekend trip to Pontiac, and making this as one of your stops to see while here. You will be pleasantly surprised.
- I incorrectly said that the gold leaf was pressed on when the correct term is laid on.
- My interview with the president of Society of Gilders was over the phone, and I am working on a project about the guilds of the Middle Ages, so I mistook what she was saying and superimposed guilder when it was gilder that she was saying. I removed any reference to the guilds.
- This paragraph was quite unclear the first time. I hope I made it more clear and accurate.