Rising Drug Costs, Angel Museum, Working Retail

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Drug prices have increased more than 5,000% in the recent years. We look at the reasons why, and the human costs. Retail workers are traditionally underpaid and unions have not been very successful in organizing efforts. We talk with the author of a new book that traces the ways in which the retail industry has fallen short in providing its workers with living wages and meaningful benefits. And Beloit, Wisconsin, is home to a unique museum — one focusing on angels.

Featured in this Show

  • Visiting Beloit's Unique Angel Museum

    Wisconsin is home to the world’s largest collections of angel figurines and other artifacts. The founder of the Angel Museum in Beloit shares her collection, how she got started, and why Oprah Winfrey’s collection of black angels ended up at the museum.

  • Beloit Museum Features World's Largest Angel Collection

    It started in 1976. Joyce Berg and her husband were vacationing in Florida with a little time to kill before meeting up with friends. They decided to browse an antique store and ended up purchasing two angel figurines displayed in the window.

    It quickly became a hobby for them. Any time they were on a trip, they’d pick up a couple of angels. They quickly amassed a diverse collection of angelic statutes – some with wings or halos, others gilded in their youth or strumming a harp. But all of them precious.

    It wasn’t long when they were forced to knock out a couple of windows in their home in order to build customized shelving to hold their collection. Friends and family started coming over to see their display.

    Word got out because one day they received a call from the local chamber of commerce asking if they could bring by a bus tour to see their angels.

    “We realized then that we needed to share this with more people,” Berg said.

    So the husband and wife began looking for a place to set up a museum. One day in the summer of 1994, the couple was driving down Pleasant Street in Beloit and spotted a church with its doors open, a beam of sun shining bright on its entry.

    It was the former St. Paul Catholic Church and it just happened to be scheduled for demolition. But local parishioners were desperate to find a way to preserve the building.

    People having tea outside the Angel Museum in Beloit. Mark’s Postcards from Beloit (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    “So long story short, the angels saved the church,” Berg said.

    It took years to clear out the church and move in their massive collection of angels. On May 1, 1998, the Berg’s and others officially opened the Angel Museum – home of the largest collection of angels in the world – a certifiable fact by Guinness Records.

    Today there are more than 14,000 angel figurines inside the museum, displayed on a variety of shelving units and lit cases. You might even find Berg herself there dressed as an angel, gowned in a cherub, halo and wings. She still sometimes leads tours.

    Perhaps the most intriguing exhibit in the museum is the collection of black angels, which came courtesy of none other than Oprah Winfrey. The talk show host was interviewing Cher one day in 1998 and mentioned she never sees black angels. Sure enough, fans started mailing them to Harpo Studios.

    So many arrived Winfrey had to insist her audience stop sending them in, she no longer had the room to hold them. And that’s when the museum’s board members asked they accompany the other angels in Beloit.

    But for Berg, the most precious angel of them all is the one she made of her late husband, Lowell, who was there from the beginning. A figurine of his likeness sits in a display case in the very back of the church, among the stained glass and crystal pieces.

    “I found a figure of a seated man, and a friend made wings and (a) halo for him, and he’s sitting there in his chair and he has a cup of coffee with ice cream, because he didn’t like hot coffee, and he has a crossword puzzle book, which he enjoyed, and a stamp collection sitting on a little tiny table next to him, and a very small deck of cards, because he loved to play cards of any kind,” Berg said.

    Even with the growing number of angels in her collection, Berg said there is still one out there that has remained elusive.

    “I still haven’t seemed to quite acquire a Green Bay Packers angel,” she said. “I’ve had different people come in and I’ve said this and they say, ‘Oh, I’ll make you one.’ But it’s never quite come through.”

  • Costs For Common Drugs Rose Up To 5,241 Percent In Last Few Years

    The costs of several commonly prescribed antibiotics, cancer drugs, arthritis medications and other drugs have risen between 29 and 5,241 percent in recent years based on a joint investigative report from WPR, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and Wisconsin Health News. We talk to the reporters about what’s behind the sudden rise in cost and how it’s affecting people who need medications.

  • Hard Sell: Work And Resistance In Retail Chains

    Less than five percent of retail workers working hourly jobs are unionized. After hourly employees around the country captured the attention of media and policymakers with the Fight for 15, we talk to the author of the book Hard Sell: Work And Resistance In Retail Chains about organizing and the retail industry.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Rob Ferrett Producer
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Joyce Berg Guest
  • Sean Kirkby Guest
  • Dee Hall Guest
  • Peter Ikeler Guest

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