Currently on display at the Museum is a selection of Native American baskets (most of which are Pomo in origin) from the collection of Medora Johnson, the Museum’s first director. Born and raised in Lakeport, California, Medora gained an appreciation for history and Native American culture by helping her mother establish a museum in Lake County to display the craftwork of Pomo tribe members. Because of her interest in local history, Medora became a charter member of the San Joaquin County Historical Society in 1954. She served as Society president (1957-1959) and later served as chairperson of the projects committee, becoming the driving force behind establishing a museum.
When local farmer and philanthropist William G. Micke died in 1961, he gave his estate to the county. Medora thought his generosity to the citizens of the county should be honored by establishing a museum in Micke Grove Park. Medora lobbied members of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, heads of county departments, local business people, and educators on the importance of creating a museum to honor him. She received support and assistance from the Department of California State Parks and museum directors throughout the state. On December 21, 1965, the Board of Supervisors voted to establish a County Museum in Micke Grove Park with the Historical Society overseeing the collections and daily operations.
The Historical Society selected Medora as the Museum’s first director. Over the next fifteen years, Medora served as the visionary behind its growth and success. She worked tirelessly planning every part of the Museum, from the parking lot to the exhibit buildings. The volunteers jokingly called it, “Medora’s Museum” because of the time she devoted to the project. Under her leadership, the Museum received many of its agricultural artifacts, as well as, the Locher tool collection, the Chinese costume collection, and a wide variety of Native American artifacts. In the early 1970s, the Museum applied for accreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM). The San Joaquin County Historical Museum received its accreditation status in February 1973, making it the first accredited agricultural museum west of the Mississippi River.
Julie Blood is the Collections and Exhibits Manager at the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum