You can visit the Long Beach Island Historical Museum at 129 Engleside Avenue, from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m., seven days a week, through Labor Day.
A neighborhood that was swallowed by the ocean, shark attacks that terrorized the shore, washed-out railroads and sunken ships: if you tear yourself away from the surf for a day and find yourself at the Long Beach Island Historical Museum, these are just a few of the stories you’ll stumble across.
Island history buffs have long sung the praises of the small museum on Engleside Ave, formerly the home of Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church, and purchased by the LBI Historical Society in 1976. Since then, it’s undergone restorations and expansions, but retains its 1880s-era charm. And while it may be a small building, don’t plan on breezing through in fifteen minutes; as the only museum that focuses on the history of the entire island, it’s collection is extensive: “I counted this morning, and we currently have 39 exhibits on display,” explains Jeanette Lloyd, the resident historian and de-facto expert on the museum’s many collections—her late husband, John Bailey Lloyd wrote many of the historical tomes about the island that you can find in local gift and book stores.
Lloyd cannot be stumped. Ask her anything—from the prominent New York and Philadelphia families who made LBI a vacation destination, to the epic, pre-Sandy storms—and she not only has a story or two, but can point you to the area of the museum where you can find everything else you’d ever want to know about the subject. She is often accompanied by the museum president, Ron Marr, who is every bit as passionate about educating locals and visitors alike on the rich and vibrant stories that make up LBI’s history.
It’s easy to get lost amongst the photos and artifacts—everything from genuine “sneakboats,” a preserved Lenni Lenape dugout canoe, turn-of-the-century bathing suits, and yes, even a whale’s skeleton. “We are proud of our museum,” Lloyd notes. “And it’s wonderful to witness those who have been coming to the island for years discover stories they never knew existed.” Ron agrees, noting that a challenge is not only engaging with those who are nostalgic for the LBI of years-past, but attracting the next generation of members, visitors—and funders. “We are a nonprofit,” Marr notes. “Money and personnel are always a challenge.”
To that end, they’ve succeeded in making a name for themselves as a great rainy-day activity for families with children, but continue to find ways to engage with the community further. Lloyd leads neighborhood tours, while the museum also holds holiday events during the offseason. They’ve hosted weddings (and even a funeral), fundraisers, and lectures – efforts they hope will result in driving museum membership amongst their visitors and ultimately help ease the financial burden for the museum’s next big projects: continuing to go digital. They’re bulking up their social media efforts and web presence, but also deeply committed to preserving the history they have in front of them—particularly photos and documents.
“We have so much on display – but it is really the tip of the iceberg. And we want to get many of these exhibits to be more interactive, to get people to really connect with them, to really connect with the history of the Island,” says Marr. “When you understand a community’s history, it makes you that much more passionate—and proud—to be a part of it.”