Sac Valley Museum building diverse audiences

The Sacramento Valley Museum may be rich in history, but it now has something new: a young millennial with fresh ideas to help engage the community and turn more people into loyal patrons and donors.

James Pearson, 26, has been a volunteer and museum director since last year, and with a master’s degree in history from Cal Poly and a desire to stay in Colusa County, he was the perfect fit to replace Kathy Manor as curator, following her retirement earlier this year.

“I just volunteered out of the blue one day, and after awhile – although it seems practically like the first day – I was designing exhibits and reorganizing the archives,” Pearson said. “When Kathy retired, it just fell into my lap.”

Although the Sacramento Valley Museum has for decades been two-stories rich in pioneer history, reaching beyond the walls to attract new, diverse, and younger museum audiences is still a challenge.

The museum has completed its one-room schoolhouse project, installed several new exhibits, and is now adding new events into the fold.

“Things are heating up,” Pearson said. “We’ve got some cool events coming down the pipe.”

While an Old Fashion Ice Cream Social is nothing new for a museum, adding a Scavenger Hunt will allow new and returning visitors to discover and understand the treasures at the museum.

“The scavenger hunt is designed to make sure everybody sees the highlights of each exhibit, including everything downstairs,” Pearson said. “Some of them are pretty tricky, but I don’t want to give anything away. I don’t know if there has been anything like this scavenger hunt done here before, but I think it’s a cool way for people to really have to look at things, and understand what they are. I think it will allow people to get to know the museum a bit better.”

The Ice Cream Social and Scavenger Hunt will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15, beginning at 5 PM. The event includes music (bring your own chairs), and ice cream. Tickets are $10 a person, and are available from any museum board member or at the museum.

In October, the Sacramento Valley Museum will hold a two-day antique bottle and collectable show and sale in the Old Gym, which the board hopes will become an annual event.

A $5 door charge, will allow first pick on merchandise as an an “Early Bird” special on Friday, Oct. 5. Then on Saturday, the event will open to the public, free admission, from 8 AM to 3 PM.

Any vendor interested in having a tables should contact Slim or Cristy Edwards at (530) 473-2502 or closethegatefenceco@yahoo.com.

Since working in the museum archives, Pearson has uncovered some incredible records about many of the families that settled in the area.

“I don’t know how many of them were made, but there is a book downstairs of lithographs of local farms that was used almost like advertising for railroad companies to see,” he said. “Sometimes the drawings are a bit exaggerated. Some of the land is very beautiful, the horses are really fit and look really good, and there are sheep everywhere, and all the houses are beautifully manicured.”

While 19th century farms didn’t really look as depicted in the drawings, Pearson said the book is rich in Colusa County history.

“It has a lot of autobiographical stuff in it,” he said.

Pearson discovered its pages while putting together some of the cultural aspects of the Sites area for researchers working on the reservoir project, when he realized the story in the book of how John Sites came to Colusa County, by way of Germany, to settle in the foothill town that was named for him was actually his own work.

“It was written by him,” Pearson said. “There are a lot of stories like that in the book.”
Also in the book is B.C. Epperson’s story of his journey around Cape Horn to San Francisco, prior to the Panama Canal, which was stalled when the ship he was on sunk off the coast of Mexico, near Acapulco.

“He was there for some months waiting for some way to get to San Francisco,” Pearson said. “He eventually made it to Colusa County and settled in Bear Valley.”

Although the book is currently not on public display, Pearson knows that capturing new audiences means inspiring new generations and diverse cultures to love Sacramento Valley history.

The Chinese exhibit, a tribute to the large population of Chinese immigrants that lived and worked in Colusa County in the late 19th century, was one of Pearson’s first exhibits. He is also working on a new Native American exhibit, and others that capture Colusa County diverse history.

The museum is open to the public from 10 AM to 4 PM, Friday and Saturday.