Crossing the state line into Wisconsin, we seek out Beloit's Angel Museum, an old database target with the note: "Owner/collector wears silver angel costume with wings." After a little driving around, we find the church housing the World's Largest Collection of Angels. Joyce Berg doesn't own the museum, but most of it is her collection... and she does wear an angel costume.
The museum first opened in 1998 in the old St. Paul's Catholic Church in downtown Beloit. The basement features a gift shop and snack bar. The upstairs has been renovated to exhibit large glass cases filled with porcelain angel collectibles. There is a large mural over the altar which we are forbidden to photograph.
Joyce is diminutive, perky, and silver-haired, clad in a silver space blanket robe, silver garland diadem, and tiny lace wings. She provides peppy commentary about the 6,000 figurines arrayed in glass cabinets around the museum -- she knows a story about each one and she has another 6,000 at home. There are angels made out of spaghetti here, as well as fire alarm angels, animal angels, cartoon devils and angels, bride and groom angels, hobo angels.
Oprah Winfrey once gave Joyce 600 African-American angels for the collection. Oprah asked on her show, "Why are there no black angels?" and was soon answered with an outpouring of statuettes from her TV audience.
As Joyce chatters away, we begin to notice that nearly all the visitors around us are groups of silver-haired senior citizens. Although angels are frequently portrayed as children, the Angel Museum is not really a kid attraction (too many things to break).
One older fellow stands off in the shadows of a nearby cabinet -- Joyce's husband and fellow collector, Lowell. Joyce and Lowell have been collecting since 1976, acquiring over 12,000 ethereal figurines, and still adding more. Lowell, though a good sport, sheepishly admits that he doesn't wear an angel costume.