Posts Tagged ‘Spencer and Lee’

Plumas County Museum: First Venue for Agriculture West and Midwest

January 24th, 2019

The Plumas County Museum: Exhibiting Talented Artists and Serving Plumas County for 60 Years

David Leland Hyde’s First Museum Show, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Traditional Way of Life From 17 States,” Raised Thousands of Dollars for the Plumas County Museum Association. The Museum Staff Chose Hyde’s Large 2017 Fine Art Print, “Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley Ranch” for Their Permanent Collection.

Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley Ranch, Spring, Northern Sierra, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. Part of the Agriculture West and Midwest Museum Show and the Plumas County Museum permanent collection. (Click to See Image Large.)

This feature blog post I originally intended for the purpose of promoting my art exhibition at the Plumas County Museum of over 110 archival photographic prints, all of which I printed and over 60 of which I personally matted and framed. However, I am now posting this as a thank you to the museum and it’s staff for all of their hard work and support of my project and to promote them going forward independent of my show as it moves on to new venues.

Some people believe museums are unnecessary. Many shun art museums in particular. Our current Oval Office Occupier abolished public support for the arts not realizing that his most successful business towers owe much prestige and high value to the neighborhood, the home of Manhattan’s premier museums. The National Endowment for the Arts website materials in 2017 stated that less than 10 percent of Americans have ever set foot in an art gallery or art museum. Why? Is it partly because schools teach the appreciation of art less and less? Are people turned off by perceived snobbery?

Is it because we are not taught in school that art adds to:

  • Community Culture
  • Business Profits
  • Neighborhood Property Values

The art of nature specifically:

  • Decreases Stress and Anxiety
  • Increases Mental Clarity
  • Improves Productivity
  • Improves Overall Health
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Lowers Risk of Cancer

Museums are important institutions in any location, but a county museum that assists and supports other area museums and preserves and catalogs the artifacts, memoirs, court records, events, history, knowledge and whatever else mattered to the people and way of life in a county is an indispensable storehouse of treasures kept in trust for all of us to enjoy and help perpetuate.

The Plumas County Museum began as an idea instigated by restaurateur Bob Moon and bankers William Skaggs and Ward Ingersoll on behalf of Stella Fay Miller, a descendant from Plumas County pioneers who left a bequest that arranged for the purchase of the land and the construction of a museum. These three community leaders gathered together a Plumas County Museum Committee that later became the Board of Trustees for the museum. Philip Hyde, a Trustee and committee member hired the architect for the museum building, Osborne and Stewart from San Francisco. Both Hyde and Ansel Adams had done architectural photography for the related prestigious firms Spencer and Lee, and Stewart, Osborne and Lee. Bill Barlow submitted the lowest bid and became the contractor for the project in early 1968, completing the building in just over a year for a dedication ceremony on June 7, 1969.

Philip Hyde donated giant 32×40 and 40×50 darkroom black and white silver prints to the museum to hang around the inside of the Mezzanine. These silver prints were part of a series called, “The Four Seasons in Plumas County.” Dad wrote about the series that the photographs “Were selected not so much to show specific places in the county, as to represent in a more general way the landscape of the county—the setting of which has changed in details, but has remained overall impression substantially as it was when the first pioneers found their way into the mountains and valleys of the upper Feather River country. These large photographs are still on view today and can be seen from either upstairs or downstairs.

Throughout the 1970s, the museum sold Philip Hyde prints. Dad’s well-known photograph “Spanish Creek,” of which original Dye Transfer prints today sell for $6,000 to 8,000 and more, in 1970 were priced at $22.50 at the Plumas County Museum. Bob Moon wrote a letter to Dad in July 1970 explaining that sales had been brisker than expected and that the prints needed to be restocked. Incidentally, Bob Moon also helped Dad get on TV for the first time during the early days of the museum. The Sacramento Public Television Station filmed a half-hour special at our home near Taylorsville. Plumas County promoted Dad’s work and this in turn brought in sales at the museum that contributed to the operating funds.

In a 1974 fundraising letter Norma J. Carr, then Secretary-Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, reported that in the first five years “the multi-purpose Plumas County Museum and Chamber of Commerce Building hosted over 300 different historical, cultural, educational and informational exhibits and functions viewed by over 80,000 visitors. With a paid staff of two persons and a great deal of volunteer help, the Plumas County Museum has already gained statewide attention and notoriety.” Today, the museum has diversified even further.

“We are an all-encompassing facility for the whole county,” Lawson said. “This is the Plumas County Museum not the Quincy Museum.” He explained that the entire region, the whole Feather River Watershed and its history are important to the museum:

Whether you use anything in the museum on a regular basis or not, the memoirs and papers of the pioneers are here, but we are not here just for people to check out information, we also hold tangible objects passed down through generations from the pioneer families. People gave us the objects and records, for us to take care of and know they will be here for future generations. A lot of these are things we may never see again. Maybe a lot of people had the item years ago, but they have been thrown away, given away, burned up or lost in floods. We have everything from textiles: clothing, shoes, hats, household items, kitchen utensils, furniture, industrial tools, cameras, photography components and darkroom equipment. We have a little bit of everything that represents what life was in Plumas County over the last 170 years for Euro-American culture, plus items that represent the life ways of the Indigenous Maidu.

Lawson said the various museums around the county each serve an important purpose as well.

We can’t do it all here. I don’t feel we are in competition with the other museums around the county at all. I’ve worked with a lot of them to help them hone their accessioning and curatorial skills: so we aren’t throwing things in a corner or letting them get damaged. I help them pick out computer systems and help them get going. We are lucky to have that brochure that shows we have 11 museums now in the county. It could be promoted more than it is, but the county doesn’t spend money on things that bring money in like museums and the chambers of commerce. A lot of people move here because of us, or after seeing our information.

He also filled me in on the history of the Plumas County Museum before it moved into the current building.

The museum has been part of County Courthouse planning since the courthouse opened in 1921. The room where the recorder’s office is now, that was called the memorial room. A lot of the cases in the County Museum now, were in that room. We were one of 19 departments. The county-funded everything: the electricity, heat and so on. After we moved to Jackson Street, they formed a non-profit group to accept donations, so they are giving us less of the general fund now. Things are better than they were for a while, but not ideal because I still have the same extended workload, I’m behind from having no help for a couple of years. I used to have three people and I’m still trying to do the work of three people. With part-time people, you don’t have as much continuity as with full-time folks. I have to spend more time running around making sure they are getting everything done.

Besides cataloging and developing a database and system for looking up everything, the museum undertakes many other endeavors. Having local people and children enjoy the museum Lawson said was one of the most satifying aspects of his job.

We have other projects like maintaining the historic buildings we care for like the Hall-Lowry House and the Old Taylorsville School. If you saw the faces of fourth-graders when they come here for their living history program where they have hands-on heritage skills: making candles, washing clothes on a washboard, making butter, cooking biscuits on a wood stove, and how excited they are about it. It makes it feel like it is worth it to do this. When I see them again 20 years later, they say that was one thing they remembered about the museum and how much fun they had. They then bring in their kids. When you get a little older you start thinking about your roots and the people before you. A lot of people who live here came from somewhere else and don’t have as much of a tie to the history here, but they still want to know, ‘Who had the house before me?’ or ‘Who lived in this valley before.’ We have that information to share.

Today, besides the museum’s many exhibits, it also offers a wide variety of services and programs including:

  • School Tours
  • Bus tours throughout the county featuring historical and cultural highlights
  • Historical and cultural presentations
  • Exhibit design and implementation
  • Local artist shows and receptions
  • 1878 Variel Home tours and restoration work
  • Maintenance of the 1860 Goodwin Law Office
  • Archival Library research and resources
  • Artifact accessioning and conservation
  • Civic and community presentations
  • 4th Grade Living History program
  • Women’s History Luncheon program
  • Spanish Peak Lumber Co. Railroad project
  • Tourism information and referral services
  • 1888 Peppard Cabin tours
  • 1857 Pioneer School tours

In 2017, museum director Scott Lawson led a group tour of Historic Sierra Valley Ranches. The tour visited the Dotta Ranch, Goss Ranch, Smith Ranch, Folchi Ranch, Beckwourth Masonic Hall and other points of interest. The museum also recently put together a grant application and received funding from the Wahl Foundation to help restore the Historic 1864 Taylorsville School, which Plumas County bought from the Native Sons of the Golden West in 2000. Furniture maker Richard Davis of Quincy rebuilt and restored the windows, among other repairs in 2018. The Plumas County Museum today remains a vital and active part of historic preservation and maintaining archives all over the county.

Details:

Plumas County Museum

500 Jackson Street (Behind the County Courthouse)

Quincy, California

Contact Info:

Scott Lawson, Director and Curator

Paul Russell, Assistant Director

530-283-6320

pcmuseum@psln.com

Trustees:

Ken Bernard                       530-283-3965                Graeagle

Charlie Brown                     283-3416                        Quincy

Don Clark                            836-2586                       Graeagle/Mohawk Valley

Pat Cook                             836-4029                        Graeagle (President)

Pete Dryer                          283-2130                         Twain

Bob Edwards                     283-1728                         Quincy

Jerry Holland                     283-5328                         American Valley

Sandra Lee                         927-7442                        Quincy

Gaye Porter                        283-0777                        Quincy

Jerry Thomas                     283-4231                        Quincy/American Valley

Diane Uchytil                     283-3305                         American Valley