You might be surprised to learn that the best museum collection in St. Joseph, Missouri-one of the best private collections in the U.S.-is not open to the public. If it were, people would come from all over the country to see it. It’s truly that incredible.
Perhaps you caught a glimpse of this collection, which is owned by retired teacher, Greg Filardo, on a recent episode of History Channel’s American Pickers. The program features professional pickers, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, who travel the U.S. in search of treasures in obscure places.
On a tip from an Atchison, KS resident, Wolfe, Fritz, and their entourage came to St. Joe to film an episode that appeared on Aug. 9, entitled, “Psychic Pickings”.
Marshall White from the News-Press attended the filming and interviewed Mike Wolfe, one of the show’s stars. He offers a quote from Wolfe that reads like a call to action. That’s right: an aux armes to history buffs, music lovers, community-minded people, and anyone with a hopeful vision for St. Joe’s future:
Greg’s architectural collection is one of the best in the world. I was dumbfounded at the quality and the passion he has for collecting. With the community’s help, there would be no boundaries on the kind of museum he could create.
The architectural collection, which is housed in the art-deco style former police station, includes woodwork, decorative elements of structures long since torn down, stained glass, and ornate hardware. Filardo’s music collection includes orchestrelles, self-playing pianos, nickelodeons, a pipe organ, and an array of other items. One of the rarest pieces is a self-playing violin, which is an emblem, not only of music history, but also of the history of technology.
Filardo hopes to establish a learning center and museum of architectural artifacts and a museum of American musical heritage. He has more than enough items to display, but he needs a place to house the items for public viewing and volunteers to categorize and move items, set up displays, and create learning centers.
But the scope of Filardo’s vision goes far beyond a simple museum. He proposes a real link between conservation of knowledge and the development of local cottage industries. The arts of working with terracotta, ceramic, and ornamental iron are dwindling into obscurity, but Filardo believes that local people could step up to learn and revive them.
Here is Filardo’s vision in his own words: “The production of historic architectural elements as well as restoration of same for the architectural center. For the music center: restoration of historic musical instruments, creating new musical arrangements, making the vast collection of sound recordings available for film/recording/educational endeavors. The results: thousands of new tourists, millions of dollars in new revenue, creation of hundreds of new, well-paying jobs for the community, and lastly, creating a cultural awareness/higher education level in this depressed community.”
If you believe that St. Joseph is fertile ground for growth on this scale, and you would like to be involved, contact Greg Filardo at [email protected]
Grider originally wrote this article for the St. Joseph Telegraph.
White, Marshall. “‘American Pickers’ Films in St. Joe: TV Show Visits Old Police Station'”. News Press.. 22 April 2010.