Lithophane museum moving to Schedel estate

Staff writer

A collection of some 2,300 lithophanes – believed to be the largest collection in the world - will have a new home in Elmore.
The City of Toledo has approved the transfer of ownership in trust of the collection to the Schedel Arboretum &Gardens. Under the agreement, the Blair Museum of Lithophanes will be moved to the 1881 manor house on the Schedel grounds.
Toledoan Laurel Blair assembled the collection over many years and the museum was originally located in his Old West End home.
In 1993, he reached an agreement with the city to take ownership of the collection and since 2002 the collection has been housed in a 1,500-square-foot building at the Artist’s Village at Toledo Botanical Garden. In 2018, the city transferred ownership of the TBG to Metroparks Toledo. Last year, the Metroparks notified the Friends of the Blair Museum, Inc., a non-profit organization, the building was going to be used for an alternative purpose and would have to be vacated by Sept. 1, 2020.
The 1993 agreement between Blair and Toledo prohibits the sale of the collection but did allow for its donation to an entity capable of caring for it if the city wasn’t able to. That provision is also in the agreement between the city and Schedel gardens, said Rodney Noble, executive director of the arboretum and gardens.
He described lithophane as a European decorative art form dating to the early 19th century. Images are carved into wax with a thin layer of porcelain added. When the porcelain is backlit, the light and dark areas in the carving are seen in detail and give a piece a three-dimensional look.
“The lithophanes were used in practical ways as candle shields, night lights, fireplace screens and tea warmers. They were also formed to make the panels for lanterns,” said Julia LaBay Darrah, who will continue as the museum’s curator and director after it moves to the Schedel manor house.
According to Noble, the manor house was built in the 1800’s at a time when lithophanes were being created in Europe. Joeseph Schedel was a German immigrant to the U.S. in the early 1900’s.
Patricia Scharf,president of the Friends of the Blair Board, said Blair traveled the world collecting the lithophanes and the board’s goal is to keep it in the Toledo area.
“It’s a part of Toledo history. This is such a unique and extensive collection. We have pieces that are one of a kind, that are rare, that no one else has, and to see it not be accessible to the public would be kind of a shame. But we need it to be somewhere that it’s going to be appreciated and funded and Schedel gardens is the perfect spot,” she said.
Joe and Marie Schedel also traveled extensively, visiting more than 120 countries during their 50 years at the estate in Elmore, Noble said. They collected art, antiques, archaic bronze and antique carved jade as well as plants.
“They loved nature and the arts and I believe having the Blair collection displayed here would please them greatly,” he said.
Current members of the Friends of the Blair Board will automatically have their memberships transferred to Schedel gardens.
The mayor of Elmore, Rick Claar, said the Schedel estate is a good location for the collection.
“I was very excited to learn that the Schedel Arboretum and Gardens will be displaying this very beautiful collection of lithophanes. Being chosen to display the world's largest collection is truly a feather in the cap of one of the most beautiful places in the State of Ohio.
“On a yearly basis, Schedel's is host to people who come from all over the world to enjoy the arboretum and gardens. This collection will be another special reason for people to visit the Arboretum and Gardens. I would like to congratulate Rod Noble and the Schedel Arboretum and Gardens for pursuing and being granted the opportunity to bring this wonderful collection to the Elmore area,” he said.
Viewing hours for the collection will be increased at its new location, matching the hours the gardens are open: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (8 p.m. on Thursday) and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday from April 1 through Oct. 31.
The Schedel Arboretum & Gardens is located at 19255 W. Portage River South Rd. The website and other information about the Blair collection will be updated.
The cost of packing and moving the collection and modifications to the Schedel manor house is estimated at $70,000.
Anyone interested in donating should visit or call 419 862-3182.


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