Behind the Scenes

Have you ever wondered what's been happening behind the scenes at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum? It might surprise you to know that the pace has not slowed in recent months, despite hot, lazy days more conducive to napping in the shade than hard work.

The Elliott family freight wagon heads out for restoration, 2012.

The Elliott family freight wagon heads out for restoration, 2012.

Two years ago, the San Joaquin County Historical Society was awarded a half-million-dollar grant to upgrade and expand some of the Museum's exhibits. The money came from Prop. 84, a 2006 California state bond measure devoted to the promotion of water quality projects, including public access to natural resources.

The Museum's grant from the Prop. 84 Nature Education Facilities Program includes several related elements. One part will expand and upgrade the Museum's "Native People's Gallery" in the Erickson Building. The living native plant exhibit, the "Sunshine Trail," will also be improved with audio and graphics-text messages.

In addition, a new interpretative walkway, the "Delta Water Path," will be built around the existing horse-shoe shaped pond at the Museum. The new path will provide messages about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and water—factors that have shaped County history from its beginning.

The Society has completed environmental compliance requirements for the project, conducted a comprehensive selection process for a consultant, and chosen the Sibbett Group, from Sausalito, to guide exhibit planning and design. In the spring of 2012, meetings with stakeholders kicked off the concept development phase.

The next phase, design development, has resulted in a visitor experience outline. Preliminary design work was tested in additional stakeholders' meetings last fall. Since then, we've been in the final design phase, which will culminate in blueprints used by the exhibit fabrication company.

The Society is also developing a new "Settlers' Exhibit," parallel to the Prop. 84 Nature Education Facilities Program grant, but underwritten by private funding. This exhibit will reveal the history of the first American trappers to enter this area, the establishment of French Camp by Hudson's Bay Company, and early American settlers who came to San Joaquin County to build farms and futures.

The centerpiece of the "Settlers' Exhibit" will be a freight wagon used in 1859 to transport the Elliott family westward along the California Trail. The wagon is currently being restored and will return to the Museum soon. It will be installed simultaneously with other exhibit upgrades to save mobilization and installation costs. The lead donors for the "Settlers' Exhibit" are Dr. Ross Bewley and Robert Kavanaugh.

The Historical Society welcomes additional contributions. Three of the exhibits' audio messages have not been funded yet and are projected to cost a total of eighteen thousand dollars. Send me an e-mail message if you would like to partner with the Historical Society with this or any of the Museum's other projects.

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