The Lightner Museum is commonly referred to as “the museum of curiosities” and is accurately described as “a collection of collections”. The museum houses an eclectic collection of more than 20,000 items in its permanent collection. The items vary greatly and include all sorts of different pieces, including: furniture, cut glass, toys, lamps, paintings, watches, musical instruments, figurines, animal trophies, bottles, and even art made from human hair and shrunken heads. All of these random items and more can be found at the Lightner Museum year-round.
The museum is made up of three floors, and since the collection is so eclectic and extensive, each floor does not have a particularly distinct theme like other museums typically do. However, as a general rule, the first floor of the museum contains mainly Victorian era antiques, such as pianos and dolls, alongside all sorts of strange scientific contraptions and even a stuffed turkey. Classic French oil paintings are also on display. Temptation (1879) by Jules Garner was originally displayed in the Paris Salon but now graces the walls of the Lightner Museum.
The second floor of the museum was once home to the ever-so-popular hotel bath house but now contains the museum’s extensive collection of extraordinary cut glass. One lovely bowl in particular from L.C. Tiffany was made of stretch glass in the year 1905. The bowl hails from New York and is made of bright iridescent blue and green colors. It has distinct butterfly, dragonfly, and floral markings along the rim and bright rainbow colors in the center of the bowl.
The third floor contains large, intricately detailed furniture pieces and more Victorian artwork. One piece is believed to have belong to the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte, in 1806. Louis was the appointed king of Holland at the time and the Grand Escritoire was made just for him out of Mahogany wood in the classic French style with ebony and ivory inlay. This floor also overlooks a restaurant that was once a large indoor pool at the Alcazar Hotel.
One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is The Music Room. Antique instruments from as early at the 1870’s can be found here, with demonstrations of these priceless antique instruments held daily. The museum’s collection of antique Tiffany glass is one of the finest in the country. There are more than 5,000 salt and pepper shakers in the museum’s collection and even shrunken mummy heads. A majestic marble statue, Cleopatra, from early 19th century Italian sculpture Raffaelo Romanelli, is proudly on display in one of the museum’s newly renovated galleries.
One of the museum’s most prized works of art is a painting of the Saint Augustine skyline by Felix F. de Crano from the year 1900. It’s no wonder why the vibrant watercolor is so close to the museum’s heart: it depicts the sun setting over the historic Alcazar Hotel. The painting is one of many works by Felix F. de Crano housed at the Lightner Museum private collection.