Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Model maker T.F. Monti's hobby becomes Gulf Coast museum

Following Hurricane Katrina, longtime model maker Thomas Francis “T.F.” Monti experienced up to three feet of water in his house. His family helped him to rescue his many models and move them to a storage shed while the house was rebuilt. Then Mrs. Monti put her foot down. Those models weren’t coming back into the house.

A labor of love

So youngest son Joe and his wife decided to use a building they owned to give T.F. the museum he had always wanted. They built shelves throughout the structure. On a Saturday afternoon, they moved about 50 models into the building. On Sunday, they invited him over to see their “new office.”

“He cried,” remembers Joe. “It took about three months to bring the rest of them in and he was with us the whole time. He was the curator.” T.F. served as curator for about six months until his death in September of 2009.

Their labor of love, which showcases T.F.’s lifetime of work, operates as a free museum on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Containing over 4000 models, the Monti family carries on T.F.’s legacy and shares the stories of what he built.

The exhibit includes the desk at which Monti built his models and where he repaired any damage that occurred as they were moved into the museum. The model he was working on sits on the desk as he left it.

Many of the models still show evidence of mud from Hurricane Katrina. Early efforts to clean them resulted in damage to the fragile pieces, so the family decided to leave the stains as part of the history of the collection.

A broad spectrum of models

In the entry area, visitors can view several items relating to Monti’s work as an engineer with the electric company. A model of his last pickup truck sits proudly on the shelf with models of some of the equipment he used. The backdrop for the model is a photo of Monti at the museum. Today in Mississippi, the Coast Electric newsletter, covered the museum in its July 2009 edition and a framed copy of the article hangs in the museum.

One room focuses on aircraft. Models represent the air forces of nations from around the world and throughout aviation history. Biplanes share space with jets and helicopters.
Another room features automotive models, classics and funny cars, sports numbers and work vehicles. Maritime models fill yet another area. Military rolling stock and equipment covers shelves in several small rooms. The space age gets its own room, as well.

Several dioramas take positions among the stand-alone models. The miniatures in the scenes depict fleets and camps, bringing the models into a relational focus.
Monti not only put together kits. He used the extra bits and pieces from those kits to create additional models and interpretive pieces for them.

Visitor information

Visitors come from the Gulf Coast, all over the United States and around the world. Veterans come to reminisce over the equipment they used in battle. Seniors come to remember how cars looked in their younger years. Children can see history and fantasy in one place.

“War & Peace: The T.F. Monti Private Model Collection” offers an inexpensive afternoon’s entertainment. The museum, located at 117B Highway 90 in Waveland, opens most weekday afternoons between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., as well as by appointment. Since the family runs the museum without hired staff, call ahead to make sure someone is available (228-216-7409).

Originally appeared on 08/6/2013 at

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