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June 30, 2014

Redlands' Historical Glass Museum: A Must See in San Bernardino County

Written by  Kimberly Johnson
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Joann Tortarolo, President, Historical Glass Museum Joann Tortarolo, President, Historical Glass Museum Kimberly Johnson

Two years shy of a 40 year run, The Historical Glass Museum, located in Redlands—a city of great historic value and equally charming architecture—is gaining some light.

The Victorian era construction and the layer of forest green paint, the deep mahogany tones of the museum walls—all things to swoon over when entering the space. For 29 years, Redlands has offered a physical location to house some of the rarest relics in glassmaking history. Founded in 1976 by Dixie Huckabee, it took nine years of fundraising and ingenuity to bring the museum and it’s collection to a permanent location for the public to enjoy.

Lovers of elegant crystals and the rich history that accompany them should have no shortage of appreciation for the collection. Valued donors and glass savvy board members have helped build a varied and thorough assemblage, a potpourri of glass if you will. The colors and cut change with each passing decade, but the quality and attentive touch is as consistent as they come. 

The museum is run by a small dedicated board, spearheaded by President Joann Tortarolo and Vice President William Summers. The donation based operation is an ideal location for an inexpensive look through a unique area of culture—one that encompasses art, shows the evolution of homemaking, and is full of unforeseen surprises. Sitting on the window sill of the museum’s Downtown Victorian homestead is a depression era iron, constructed predominantly of glass. It’s an aesthetically stunning representation illustrating a story, one that aligns a contradictorily beautiful item against the dark demands for metal during the war.

Board Member Jacqueline Rocha puts forth her own personal story of glass and its unexpected uses. “In my father’s youth, he made money shining shoes. When he received his first paycheck for his labor, the first thing he did is buy his mother—my grandmother—a set of royal ruby glasses,” she says pointing to the museum’s collection of royal rubies with the kind of smiling admiration summoned only when seeing selfless acts towards a cherished mother from a young son.

Rocha’s narrative shines light on the aestheticism of glass, while its use during The Great Depression represents its value as an unexpected alternative. In my own naivety, I found myself repeatedly caught in wonder over the underrated beauty and pragmatism available from the art of glass-blowing. A trip to Redland’s Historical Glass Museum may show you the potential of a simple paperweight as art. You may find yourself returning home, fixated on the thought of eating meals off of plates suitable for a gallery’s permanent collection. Luckily for us, erected in our very own backyard, stands a place with the sole purpose of highlighting the intricacy of glass-making and truly showing areas of history in relation to the craft. The icing on the cake (or more so the glass cake pan or elegant glass serving tray) is the museum’s ability to offer stories that not only shape the historical value of glass, but offer education in a new, fresh and mind bogglingly colorful way.

The Historical Glass Museum is open on Weekends from noon to 4pm. To learn more about the museum or to schedule a tour, head to: www.historicalglassmuseum.com

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