Indian museum scheduled to close in less than a decade

The California State Indian Museum has been located on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort since 1940. The museum will be replaced by the future California Indian Heritage Center in West Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The California State Indian Museum has been located on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort since 1940. The museum will be replaced by the future California Indian Heritage Center in West Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part one in a series about the future California Indian Heritage Center.

Plans for the replacement of the California State Indian Museum on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort with the California Indian Heritage Center in West Sacramento are progressing slowly but surely.
Once scheduled to open during the summer of 2016, the future center is now on course to open in less than a decade.
In speaking about the change in plans for the opening of that center, Dana Jones, district superintendent of the Capital District for California State Parks, said, “Our timeline has been a little stretched. For the full build out, I would have to say, yes (to the center not being completed for more than a decade), but we are making significant progress right now. We are in the final stages of the (land) acquisition process. So, where the property is actually going to come over to State Parks, we anticipate that that’s going to be done by the end of this year. It has to go through the (state) Public Works Board. At that time, State Parks will be the owner of the 50 acres of the property, and we will be able to take a look at at least starting to program things on it and look at the future of what we’re building and what phases we’re building in.”
Jones added that the state already owns seven acres of the site, which is located across from Discovery Park, overlooking the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers. The future center’s remaining 43 acres of the site was selected as a result of the city of West Sacramento’s agreement to donate the property for the project.
Ileana Maestas, environmental coordinator for the capital district and former curator of the Indian museum, said that she is eagerly anticipating the eventual opening of the Indian center.
“The California State Indian Museum is a special place and I’m really excited that this (Indian center) project is going on, because the state Indian museum will morph into the California Indian Heritage Center,” Maestas said. “So, it will be bigger, it will be more dynamic and just much more available so people can see about California Indian culture.”
Maestas also noted that California Indian tribes will play a substantial role in the development of the center.
“We’re in collaboration with the Indian community and we want them to make sure that they sign off on all that,” Maestas said. “Once this land transfers, the (Indian) community is going to be a lot more involved in deciding the type of museum that they want, the (structures), the layout, the square footage. Because this is (about) how they want their story told. And that’s why they called it a heritage center and not a museum. They want the public and the people who visit (the center) to understand that California Indian culture is unique and (it is) a culture that is alive and dynamic. In California, there are over 100 tribes, so the diversity of California tribes is big, too.”
In commenting about the tribes’ future involvement with the center, Larry Myers, president of the California Indian Heritage Center Foundation, said, “I guess when it finally opens, it will have, I think, an immeasurable impact on the Native American community. And the spiritual impact it’s going to have, it’s going to be a place that the Native American people are going to want to come, not just to read a book or look at artifacts, but also to work on materials, to do things, to do baskets or whatever art that they may want to do, or if there’s something spiritual that they need to know or they want to practice, this would be a place to do it.”
Jones explained that the size of the present museum is a problem, since it houses “substantially less than 5 percent” of its collection.
But Jones also emphasized that most museums do not display a large percentage of their collections.
And when asked to estimate what percentage of the collection will be on display at the new center, Jones said, “It really all depends, because we haven’t designed what it’s going to look like or the size of it. But it’s really important not to display everything (at the same time), because you (want) the ability to have rotating displays and to bring people in and (have) new things for people to look at.”
Maestas said that the new center’s large size gives it an advantage over the present Indian museum.
If there’s an exhibit at another (museum), say the Smithsonian did an exhibit on California Indians, then we would have the space to get that exhibit in,” Maestas said. “Where as right now, at the state Indian museum, that’s the one thing I would say about it, it doesn’t change. It tells the story of the Indian people, but we can’t bring in more contemporary stories, other parts of the stories. Things just stay the way they are, because there is no space to have new exhibits.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

State Indian Museum at Sutter’s Fort to close

Sitting in his office at the California State Indian Museum last week, Rob Wood spoke about the current California Indian Heritage Center project, which would eliminate the necessity of the longtime East Sacramento museum on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort.

Rob Wood, who serves as the heritage center’s project manager, has played an integral role in the efforts to bring the new center to West Sacramento by 2016. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Rob Wood, who serves as the heritage center’s project manager, has played an integral role in the efforts to bring the new center to West Sacramento by 2016. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
The new center is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016, following the completion of the 50,000-square-foot first phase of the project at its selected 43-acre West Sacramento site, across from Discovery Park and overlooking the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers.

 

Revisiting history

Although the museum has continuously operated between its adobe walls that were built in the likeness of the fort 70 years ago, Wood, who serves as the heritage center’s project manager, said that the museum’s size has always been a problem.

“From the date (the museum) was built, it was inadequate in terms of its size,” Wood said. “This (museum) is probably about 4,000 square feet and we’re projecting that at final build-out, (the new center) will be 125,000 square feet.”

Wood added that the vastness of the museum’s off-site collections, which he endearingly, yet unofficially refers to as “tribal treasures,” is so great that only about 5 percent of the entire museum archives are currently on display in the museum, which for the most part consists of displays created in the mid-1980s under the direction of the museum’s former curator, Mike Tucker.

Further emphasizing the magnitude of the inadequate size of the museum, Wood said, “We have about 3,500 baskets (in storage) alone.”

But looking forward, Wood shared details about the future heritage center, which he has so passionately devoted his time to helping it become a reality.

The now-70-year-old California State Indian Museum is shown in this 1950s photograph. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
The now-70-year-old California State Indian Museum is shown in this 1950s photograph. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
“(California) State Parks has been trying to make this (center) happen probably since about the 1970s and it is part of the relationship that State Parks has with the Native American community,” Wood said. “This project is extremely exciting. It gives us an opportunity to do what we haven’t been able to do in terms of telling the story of California Indians. Mostly what’s shown here (at the museum) are things from the North Coast and there are some dabblings from some other stuff from throughout the state. The idea of this (future) facility, too, is to take a greater statewide look of what we’re able to do there.”

Wood added that it is also an important element of the project to create a place where California Native Americans can “tell their own story in their own way.”

“It’s been a big deal throughout this project through consultations with native folks to have them involved in this project, so it speaks with what we call the ‘native voice,’” Wood said. “There was an interpretive document created in consultation with Indian advisors and academic advisors to accomplish that.”

 

The new museum

Although Wood recalled seeing concepts for a new State Indian Museum in Folsom as early as 1978, it was not until this century that much progress was made on this endeavor.

With the 2002 legislation through SB 2063, the center’s task force was established for the purpose of assisting in the development of the center and seed money was acquired for preliminary planning.

The future California Indian Heritage Center will be located on a 43-acre site, along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
The future California Indian Heritage Center will be located on a 43-acre site, along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
From 2003 to 2007, the task force conducted a statewide site search with the Folsom Lake area being held as the backup plan for the project’s site.

During a large portion of this search, the Richards Boulevard area was considered, but the land acquisition, Wood said, “got too complicated and too expensive.”

In 2007, West Sacramento came forward with the now-selected site, which was offered as a donation.

A 20-acre parcel, which is owned by an Alaskan native corporation and located just north of the Broderick Boat Ramp, may also be incorporated into the overall project.

Additionally, the project consists of a secondary site in the Natomas area, just across from the Richards Boulevard area and near Camp Pollock, a Boy Scout camp located at 1501 Northgate Blvd.

Cathy Taylor, district superintendent of the Capital District for California State Parks, said that the (Natomas area) site was once considered as a main site for the project.

“For quite a long time, we had negotiated with the city of Sacramento about locating the facility out in (the Natomas) area,” Taylor said. “The American River Parkway, however, has a lot of restrictions about what can be built (there). There are limitations in the parkway about how large a facility can be and so we looked at the Natomas area as really more of an outdoor, interpretive space that could be used for large events. We aren’t going to do a lot of huge overnight gatherings in the West Sacramento site, where the center is itself, but we can certainly do that at the Natomas site.”

Taylor added that the parkway plan is limited to about 30,000 square feet of interpretive space and as a gathering area, it could include such amenities as an amphitheater, a stage and an outdoor, shaded interpretive programming site.

“It would be more of an outdoor type of facility than a (large) interpretive center,” Taylor said.

The center, which is projected to be paid for through one-third state funds and two-thirds private funding, is in its general plan stage for about the next 18 months and once this stage is completed, work on the project’s preliminary plans and working drawings will begin.

Taylor said that when the working drawings are completed – which may be about a two-year process – actual construction on the project can proceed.

Although it is uncertain when the project will be completed in its entirety, Taylor said that the center will be a world-class facility that will be well worth the wait.

“The California Indian Heritage Center has been a long time coming,” Taylor said. “It’s important for California Indians, but it’s also important for this community to have a project of this importance with this subject matter in the capital city. It’s a huge attraction for the city.”

 

E-mail Lance Armstrong at lance@valcomnews.com.

Spending a day at Sacramento museums

Think about taking a few moments or an afternoon to slow down and enjoy a brief “escape” to a local museum, such as the Crocker Art Museum. Spending a quiet hour or two in a museum can be relaxing, informative – and as stimulating as you choose it to be.

Crocker Art Museum, located at 216 O St., is one of the many local museums participating in Museum Day 2010. (Photo courtesy Glenn Gould)
Crocker Art Museum, located at 216 O St., is one of the many local museums participating in Museum Day 2010. (Photo courtesy Glenn Gould)
Museums are nonprofit and educational institutions that make a unique contribution to our community by interpreting and preserving the things of this world, according to the California Museum Association.

There is a museum for every taste and interest. There are art and natural history museums, science and technology centers, historical societies and museums, botanical gardens, zoos, children’s museums and much more.

There are 1,300 museums in California. We are fortunate to be within less than an hour’s drive of many fine museums in the region. Sacramento abounds with great museums. There are too many to mention – for a full listing, visit www.sacmuseums.org to discover and learn more. The California Museum in Sacramento is acting as the hub for this month’s event, and will be hosting buses as well as selling box lunches for hungry visitors.

Here are a few that are just in our backyard:

 

Docent and moon rock at the Aerospace Museum of California, 3200 Freedom Park Dr. (Photo courtesy Robert Couse-Baker)
Docent and moon rock at the Aerospace Museum of California, 3200 Freedom Park Dr. (Photo courtesy Robert Couse-Baker)
The Aerospace Museum of California houses a unique collection of 40 military and civilian aircraft, and much more. There are 15 restored engines on display. Visitors are encouraged to use the educational programs, and enjoy the Air Force and Coast Guard art collections. Visitors can see aircraft from a fully restored 1932 Curtiss-Wright “speed wing” biplane to an A-10 Warthog and engines including models from pre-World War I, the first jet engine, and a J-58 jet engine that powered the SR-71 Blackbird to three times the speed of sound. Their Aerospace Learning Center allows visitors to fly non-motion flight simulators or ride in a motion ride simulator. The museum is located on the campus of the former McClellan Air Force Base, at 3200 Freedom Park Drive in Sacramento.

 

The California Museum focuses on the unique industries and people who have made our state the great place that it is. It creates unique educational programs and exhibits and hosts cultural events. It is a place children, adults and visitors from around the globe can be inspired by this great state’s rich history and stories of its innovative people. All visitors are encouraged to make their own mark on history. The museum is located at 1020 O Street in Sacramento.

 

The California State Capitol Museum is located in the state capitol building. The building serves as both a museum and the state’s working seat of government. Visitors to the Capitol can at once experience California’s rich history and witness the making of history through the modern lawmaking process. The museum is located at 1315 10th Street in Sacramento.

 

The California State Indian Museum displays exhibits illustrating the cultures of the state’s first inhabitants. California’s prehistoric population, one of the largest and most diverse in the Western hemisphere, was made up of over 150 distinct tribal groups who spoke at least sixty-four different languages. California Indian population estimates, before the arrival of the first Europeans, were at least 500,000 people. The museum is located at 2618 K Street in Sacramento.

 

The California State Military Museum does not glory in war. Rather, its intent is to remind this and future generations of the sacrifices made by previous generations to keep our state and nation free. Californians have a long and proud tradition of service that stretches back over two centuries when Alta California was a Spanish colony and later a Mexican province. Since joining the Union, California has provided more of its citizens to our common defense than any other state. The museum is located at 1119 2nd Street in Old Sacramento.

 

The California State Railroad Museum, located at 111 I St., is a complex of historic facilities and unique attractions. (Photo courtesy Orin Zebest)
The California State Railroad Museum, located at 111 I St., is a complex of historic facilities and unique attractions. (Photo courtesy Orin Zebest)
The California State Railroad Museum is a complex of historic facilities and unique attractions. Widely regarded as North America’s most popular railroad museum, there is something here for everyone. Throughout the year, visitors experience lavishly restored trains, engaging exhibits, and unique special events. The museum is located at the corner of Second and I streets in Old Sacramento.

 

The Crocker Art Museum is the first public art museum founded in the West. Established in 1885, it remains the leading art institution for the California Capital Region and Central Valley. The Museum, which is housed in one of the finest examples of Victorian Italianate architecture in the United States, offers a diverse spectrum of special exhibitions, events and programs to augment its collections of California, European and Asian artworks, and International Ceramics. The museum is located at 216 O Street in Sacramento.

 

The Discovery Museum Science & Space Center encourages the learning of history, science and space. It has two facilities on one location: the Challenger Learning Center and the Science and Space Center. Have you ever wanted to explore space? Do your children dream of being astronauts? This may be the place for you. The museum is located at 3615 Auburn Boulevard in Sacramento.

 

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park and Museum chronicles the adventures, trials and tribulations of an 1839 Swiss immigrant named John Sutter, who received a 48,000-acre land grant in the Sacramento Valley from the Mexican government. (Photo courtesy)
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park and Museum chronicles the adventures, trials and tribulations of an 1839 Swiss immigrant named John Sutter, who received a 48,000-acre land grant in the Sacramento Valley from the Mexican government. (Photo courtesy)
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park and Museum chronicles the adventures, trials and tribulations of an 1839 Swiss immigrant named John Sutter, who received a 48,000-acre land grant in the Sacramento Valley from the Mexican government. He used the land to create a flourishing agricultural empire and named it New Helvetia (New Switzerland). This empire established Sacramento’s earliest settlement and the first non-Indian settlement in California’s Central Valley. Sutter’s Fort is located at 2701 L Street in Sacramento.

Museums, in addition to being the stewards of our cultural and natural heritage, offer each of us the invaluable opportunity to refresh, relax, recharge and renew. As the old adage goes, “You’ve got to pour into yourself before you can pour yourself out for others.”

 

E-mail Susan Laird at susan@valcomnews.com.