California Parks Celebrating 150 Years, Opens Major Artifacts Collections Center

Friday, January 03 2014 13:16   Museums
California's State Parks system turns 150 years old in 2014, and this year promises to offer visitors an abundance of great things to see and experience as they come to the Golden State for a little fun and recreation.

"This is an exciting time for California State Parks, as we will be commemorating our Sesquicentennial year and looking ahead to the future of the system," said Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret.), Director of California State Parks.

museumcollectionscenter_strollers"For 150 years, California State Parks has been a leader in the conservation and preservation of our natural and cultural resources, and our mission is to connect the people of California with their parks-whether it's the beaches in southern California, or the Redwoods in the northern part of the State, or the historic and cultural parks and museums that are part of our history and our past," he added.

In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation granting the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove (known as the Yosemite Grant) to the state of California to be "held for public use, resort, and recreation, and shall be inalienable for all time."

In September of that year, California Governor Frederick Lowe accepted the grant and appointed the first State Parks Commission. Galen Clark, was appointed State Guardian of Yosemite in May 1866, at a salary of $500 per year, becoming the first State Parks employee. These actions represented not only the birth of California State Parks, but in essence, the birth of the national park idea, which has spread throughout the world.

Today, California State Parks has grown to be one of the largest state park systems in the world, with 280 park units, more than 1,600,000 acres, 14,000 campsites, and visitor attendance of some 70 million visitors per year.

Starting the celebration is the opening of a vast treasure house of California's history, a cornucopia of artifacts and pioneer memorabilia, much of it never before seen by the public.

State Park's latest conservation effort is the relocation of California's Statewide Museum Collections Center from West Sacramento to McClellan Park, in an LEED certified building that enhances climate and humidity control to ensure greater preservation capacity.

museumcollectionscenter_entranceWhat's there? More than one- million historic objects and artifacts recovered from archaeological excavations in the State Parks System.

The center will officially open to the public on Jan. 7, 2014, and will have rotating exhibits of historic and cultural artifacts throughout the year. Tours are available by reservation only and may be arranged by e-mailing California State Parks at
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . The center's lobby, however, will be open daily for visitors who just want to drop-in.

"As stewards of the people's resources, the opening of this new facility is a tremendous step forward, as historic collections of artifacts will have a longer life, and will now be open to the public," added Jackson. "This is one of our many legacy projects for the 150th Anniversary, in which we plan to enhance the recreation and education opportunities we offer our visitors."

The new Statewide Museum Collections Center is housed at Sacramento's McClellan Park, a repurposed warehouse that used to part of the old McClellan Air Force Base. The state spent more than $15 million, and took four years to refurbish the facility, turning it into a climate and humidity controlled repository for California's history, and much of the West's history as well.

museumcollectionscenter_lobbyThe collections inside the center are nothing short of incredible. They include the largest collection of Native American basketry caps in the world; several objects from the survivors of the Donner Party, snowbound in the Sierra in the winter of 1846-1847, one of the best-known tragic stories of Western settlement; more than 500 sketches, drawings and paintings, created by New Deal artists working for the Depression-era Works Progress Administration; many objects from California's Gold Rush era; Civil War objects; historic firearms; portraits and furniture, and just about everything else from California's history.

The opening of the center is just the start of California's 150th birthday party.

"We are planning an amazing variety of events throughout the state and I invite you (the public) to join us and attend activities in your favorite state parks," said Jackson.

California State Parks website can be found at .


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