In 1976, Joyce and Lowell Berg were on vacation in Florida when they saw two Italian angel figurines on a seesaw. This moment filled their hearts with a love for angels, and from that day forward the couple decided to commit their entire lives to the joy of the little saints.
In the late 1970s, the Bergs began to collect angels from all across the country and the world. They took three vacations every year to flea markets, angel conventions, and angel-owning families across America to add to their collection. In the end, the Bergs accumulated a grand total of 13,600 angels from a whopping 60 countries, including Italy, Russia, Japan, and India.
The Bergs also collected 600 African American angels directly from Oprah Winfrey. On one episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah claimed with despair, “why are there no black angels?” Much to her surprise, her fans responded by sending in hundreds of black angels to prove that they were, in fact, in existence. These angels were later donated from Oprah directly to the Bergs.
While the angels were originally kept in the Berg’s home, the collection eventually grew so large that it required a much larger facility. In July of 1994, the Bergs found St. Paul’s Catholic Church, which had been abandoned for nearly a decade and was slated for demolition. Using city funds and community donations, the Bergs returned the church to its original 1914 state and constructed stained glass windows, a garden filled with stone angels, and two large grottos.
Walking through the Angel Museum, visitors will pass display case after display case of the thousands of angels that make the Angel Museum the world’s largest angel collection. On display are animal-themed angels, corn husk angels, spaghetti angels, hobo angels, and bride and groom angels. Other angels double as fire alarms, candles, lipstick holders, bells, and pencil sharpeners. In addition to these varieties, another type of angel found at the museum is Joyce Berg, who often dresses up in a silver costume with a halo and angel wings for special occasions.
Update September 2018: The museum is closing the weekend of September 29. The collection is set to go to auction, and its owners hope the dolls will remain together.