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Waveland has been hiding a little museum you’ve never heard of

The last model on which T.F. Monti was working is on display at the War and Peace Museum in Waveland.
The last model on which T.F. Monti was working is on display at the War and Peace Museum in Waveland. tmsmith@sunherald.com

You might not expect to find The War and Peace Museum behind the NAPA Auto Parts store in Waveland. And even the name doesn’t begin to give you an idea of what awaits inside.

The small building holds the T.F. Monti Private Model Collection, named for the man who painstakingly put together each item on display. There are more than 4,000 models, including ships, planes, helicopters, military and space vehicles and civilian automobiles.

“T.F. Monti named his collection War & Peace,” the museum’s website states. “He chose war for the many models of wartime implements in the collection such as PT boats and fighter jets, cannons and tanks. He chose peace for those models which depict those things we enjoy during times of peace such as hot rods and fishing boats, racing planes and hot air balloons.”

The museum includes Monti’s small desk where he worked on his models. The last one on which he was working, a bright yellow car, sits atop the desk as if he’s about to resume its paint job later.

“The desk was in the bedroom at their home on DeMontluzin (Avenue),” Joe Monti said. He is T.F. Monti’s son and he, along with brother Bill, created the museum. Before Hurricane Katrina, the Montis’ house held the models on shelf after shelf.

In the 2005 storm, the house was filled with two and a half feet of water. Surviving models on lower shelves were coated with that familiar muddy gunk that coated just about everything exposed to it during the record surge. Rather than scrub it off entirely, the Montis left it on models that made it through the storm — a battle the models themselves fought.

The brothers and other family members moved the models into a nearby building while repairs were being made. Then the idea of the museum was planted, thanks to another empty building.

“My mom died shortly after Katrina,” Joe said. “My dad had retired from his business (Monti Electric), and there was this empty building behind what used to be his business, and it was a great place to put the models.”

Family started spending spare time painting shelves and sprucing up models for display. They kept it a secret until they had enough done to surprise their patriarch.

“We had 50 models, and one Saturday after Mass, we put them on the shelves,” Joe said. The next day, they took T.F. to see what was to become the museum.

T.F. died in September 2009 at 94, only a few months after the museum opened.

Today, the museum has several rooms dedicated to water vessels, to military vehicles, to military aircraft, to antique and modern cars.

Models had been an integral part of T.F.’s life since he was a young man.

“He used apple crates first. In the 1930s, he was doing models made out of balsa wood and paper. These were planes with about a 4-foot wingspan,” Joe said. Most of those planes wound up in the hands of children, who flew them literally to pieces.

In the early 1950s, T.F. built his first plastic model, a battleship, and he was hooked on these model kits. For the next decades, they were his passion.

The little museum has gotten worldwide attention, with visitors from other countries visiting. They also include many locals who set up visits.

“We get a lot of veterans,” Joe said. “They come in and say, ‘That’s the ship I was sent out on.’ Or we have Ingalls workers who come in and say, ‘I worked on that ship.’”

The War and Peace Museum, at 117B U.S. 90, Waveland, is open by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 228-216-7409.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

If you go

What: The War and Peace Museum: The T.F. Monti Private Model Collection

Where: 117B U.S. 90, Waveland

Phone: 228-216-7409

Charge: No charge

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