Update: Unfortunately since I visited in 2017 Beloit’s Angel Museum has permanently closed. Please enjoy this look at what was a truly heavenly collection.
I like to say that I’ve never met an offbeat museum I didn’t like, and the Angel Museum in Beloit, Wisconsin is no exception.
Stepping through the doors of the museum into the former St. Paul’s Catholic Church, it’s easy to see that this space is special. In fact, it seems only fitting that what saved this historic building from demolition was thousands of angels.
When Joyce Berg and her husband, Lowell, first began collecting angels in the 1970s, there’s no way they could have known where their unique collection would lead. After the expansive collection began to outgrow their home, the historic church serendipitously became available. The Angel Museum opened in May of 1998 and has since drawn visitors from around the world.
Today Joyce’s collection includes thousands of angels of all shapes and sizes, including a custom-made angel to honor her late husband who passed away in 2003. As I wandered the many displays, it was easy to see how visitors can lose hours in this small museum. Each cabinet is so fully packed with angels that there are endless figurines to discover. Be sure to look closely—a signed photo from the Blue Angels even hangs on the wall of the museum.
The World’s Largest Collection of Angels
With more than 14,000 individual angels, Joyce’s collection was officially named the largest by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2001. While the museum only houses about 11,000 angels at any given time, one of the museum’s helpful volunteers assured us that many still fill her home.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the museum was that the angels are lovingly grouped by their similarities. There are birth month angels, hobby-specific angels, big angels, little angels, even angels dressed like devils.
When we commented on the large framed photo of Joyce, dressed as angel and holding a few statues from her collection, the volunteer on duty smiled. Apparently this is often how Joyce greets tour groups. Unfortunately she wasn’t around on the day we visited. But the mental image made me smile nonetheless.
Oprah’s Collection of Black Angels
Around the same time that the Angel Museum was preparing to open, Oprah Winfrey wondered aloud on her TV show about why there are seemingly no black angel figurines. Her helpful viewers responded by sending the TV personality hundreds of black angels from all over the world.
In 1998, Oprah donated almost 600 of the black angels to the museum’s collection. Today visitors can still see parts of her collection on view in the museum, displayed up front in a place of honor.
Even if you aren’t an angel enthusiast like Joyce, this Beloit museum is true gem. For starters, the size and scale of this collection is just plain impressive. Plus, visiting the Angel Museum is like a one-of-a-kind scavenger hunt. With so many angels displayed in a small space, you never know what unexpected surprise you may find. Joyce’s passion is visible in every nook and cranny of this unique museum, and her volunteers reflect that spirit. Each of the crowded display cases hold as many stories as they do angels.
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! Have you heard of Beloit’s Angel Museum? Do you have a passion for collecting like Joyce?
Looking for more things to do in the Beloit region? Check out the other places I visited on my road trip.