How did it all start
During the COVID-19 lockdown, many people have realized the critical role boredom plays in creativity. Booker Prize-winning author Ann Enright says, “Boredom is a productive state as long as you don’t let it spoil you. I wait for boredom to start because, to me, boredom is a very good sign.”
Shawn Ridner can stand behind Enright’s feelings. After all, his brainchild, Mewseum, was born out of boredom. Redner explains, “I was just sitting here, doing nothing, and I remembered that a friend of mine had been collecting mushrooms about 20 years ago.” Memories of this mushroom group sparked an idea. Why not collect as many rescued cat figurines as possible?
Before he and his wife, Hilary Siegel-Ridner knew him, they owned a collection of more than 13,000 items, which raised new questions. Like, what do you do with so many felines? Here’s the story of how they created a world-class “museum” while helping to save real cats along the way.
Three kittens quickly became 13,000
Besides boredom, Redner and Siegel-Redner attribute much of their success to geography, noting a ready supply of about 15 goodwill stores in a 50-mile radius. Not to mention the antique malls, which also helped their collection grow by leaps and bounds. And soon they enjoyed fan donations for their efforts, too. From a handful of cat figurines, their collection quickly swelled to over 13,000!
With thousands upon thousands of kittens in their home, the couple had clearly defined and pursued their own collection mission. But then, they needed a little more vision. This vision came to Ridner one day as he was going around the house and looking at the wonderful collection they had put together. Besides the statues, memorabilia included paintings, pictures, and paintings that had to be seen in order to be believed.
Upgrade to Museum
Like a bolt of lightning, Redner knew he had to share these cute creatures with the public by creating a museum. After telling his wife about the idea, Siegel Redner responded with shock. As he recalls, “Her mouth opened, and she said, ‘We’ll do what?’ Siegel Ridner remained skeptical until her husband came up with another idea: using the museum’s proceeds to help real, living, rescue kitties breathing.
With his wife’s approval, the house quickly transformed. They painted the walls and installed the display boxes. Path lighting illuminated the gallery, creating an authentic museum atmosphere. Today, Redner’s Rescued Cat Figurine Mewseum attracts an eclectic group of visitors. And as Redner points out, these guests aren’t your average “cat ladies,” although they do get those, too.
There doesn’t seem to be a particular demographic when it comes to guests. They ranged from children to singles in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Firefighters, rock musicians, college students, and motorcyclists stopped by. Regardless of their life path, guests remain captivated by the same sense of amazement. (The closest competition is a museum in Poland that contains only 2,500 cats.)
The couple estimate that it takes about an hour and a half to properly see the group. Admission is free with a proposed $5 donation that goes to local cat rescues. Kids enjoy the extra fun of Easter eggs with four ‘Dressing their Best Sunday’ mice hidden inside the pack. Children with eagle eyes who find it receive a prize.
Next best thing
Redner and Siegel-Redner have now collected several cat figurines that they must keep with thousands of items in storage. As a result, they are looking to move the museum to a more prominent and spacious location. What’s more, they like to combine their love of cat collectibles with a cafe and temporary shelter to save cats looking for forever homes.
This will build on their past fundraising work to save cats found elsewhere. Redner explains: “The whole plan with the museum is that coffee has to pay the rent. Coffee and pastries. Because, with the museum, the idea has always been to donate money.”
They also hope a separate location in suburban Milwaukee will remove some of the embarrassment of visiting a group currently in their private home. So, if cat collectibles are your cup of coffee, keep an eye out for the next batch of Redner Rescued Cat Figurine Mewseum.
Written by Ingrid Barnett, Ripleys.com Contributor
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Source: Check out “Mewseum” with over 13,000 cat figurines