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Mendocino County Museum

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400 E Commercial St, Willits, CA 95490
http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/museu...
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(707) 459-2736 Additional Contacts
 
History: The Mendocino County Historical Society, a broad-based society for the preservation of local history, was incorporated in 1956 and grew into an organization of several hundred by the 1960s. With a growing collection and interest in display of...read more
History: The Mendocino County Historical Society, a broad-based society for the preservation of local history, was incorporated in 1956 and grew into an organization of several hundred by the 1960s. With a growing collection and interest in display of historic artifacts, MCHS made establishment of a museum their prime project in the late 1960s. Their fund-raising efforts, largely by publishing articles and books on local and regional history, proved successful in attracting substantial donations. The Society negotiated a 99-year lease for $1 per year with the City of Willits, on East Commercial Street, the planned prime exit from the proposed freeway into Willits. Architect J. Boyd Brown of Oakland, and Willits Contractor, George L. Recagno were engaged by the Society to build a suitable museum of 11,000 square feet on the newly leased property, formerly the site of the Willits Airport. During construction, the Society negotiated an agreement with the County of Mendocino to operate the new museum as a distinct department of county government, responsible for staffing, facility maintenance and operations. The Society and Museum would continue publications, operate a Book & Gift Store, and initially institute a general admission fee. All monies generated by the Museum were to be used for museum programming. With the first staff hired and merger with the former Willits Frontier Museum, sorting of artifacts and formation of the first exhibits was done in the early months of 1972. The Mendocino County Museum was opened in a grand ceremony of transfer from the Mendocino County Historical Society to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on June 11, 1972. With a large space to fill, including an upstairs gallery for changing displays and events, the Museum developed many exhibits and an events schedule, but over the years, space was needed for an expanded book store, a research library, and conservation work. The State of California mandated that counties establish commissions to govern historic and archaeological site significance, a responsibility passed to the Museum department in 1977. With an ever expanding collection of historic logging and railroad equipment, a volunteer organization of railroad buffs adopted a project of restoring some logging equipment acquired by the Museum. Their work was so successful and their own collection grew so rapidly that they incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, Roots of Motive Power, Inc. in 1984. Today, Roots of Motive Power, Inc. and the Museum are an effective team in the preservation of local and regional logging and railroad history. Eventually, as more and more artifacts were incorporated into exhibits, there was little remaining space for temporary shows and large events, and this aspect of programming was diminished, while artifact collections and archival materials grew. By the late 1970s and early 80s, the Museum was publishing several books per year, and had embarked on the arduous task of cataloging and refining diverse collections. In the 1980s, the role of preserving County Archives passed to the Museum Department. When the end of the century approached, plans were made to expand the facility to provide artifact storage space, double the size of the public exhibition area, and provide for classrooms, a conference room, archival reading room, conservation laboratory, office and library space for Roots of Motive Power, Inc. and an Engine House, where real, full-size railroad equipment could be displayed. An addition of 20,000 square feet was completed in 2003. The Willits Center of Mendocino College holds classes at the Museum. The Engine House was connected to the Roots Maintenance and Restoration building via standard gauge railroad track, and in 2007 the long awaited "Loop" track was completed allowing Roots to give train rides on a three-quarter mile loop of track adjacent to the Museum.
 
 

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History: The Mendocino County Historical Society, a broad-based society for the preservation of local history, was incorporated in 1956 and grew into an organization of several hundred by the 1960s. With a growing collection and interest in display of historic artifacts, MCHS made establishment of a museum their prime project in the late 1960s. Their fund-raising efforts, largely by publishing articles and books on local and regional history, proved successful in attracting substantial donations. The Society negotiated a 99-year lease for $1 per year with the City of Willits, on East Commercial Street, the planned prime exit from the proposed freeway into Willits. Architect J. Boyd Brown of Oakland, and Willits Contractor, George L. Recagno were engaged by the Society to build a suitable museum of 11,000 square feet on the newly leased property, formerly the site of the Willits Airport. During construction, the Society negotiated an agreement with the County of Mendocino to operate the new museum as a distinct department of county government, responsible for staffing, facility maintenance and operations. The Society and Museum would continue publications, operate a Book & Gift Store, and initially institute a general admission fee. All monies generated by the Museum were to be used for museum programming. With the first staff hired and merger with the former Willits Frontier Museum, sorting of artifacts and formation of the first exhibits was done in the early months of 1972. The Mendocino County Museum was opened in a grand ceremony of transfer from the Mendocino County Historical Society to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on June 11, 1972. With a large space to fill, including an upstairs gallery for changing displays and events, the Museum developed many exhibits and an events schedule, but over the years, space was needed for an expanded book store, a research library, and conservation work. The State of California mandated that counties establish commissions to govern historic and archaeological site significance, a responsibility passed to the Museum department in 1977. With an ever expanding collection of historic logging and railroad equipment, a volunteer organization of railroad buffs adopted a project of restoring some logging equipment acquired by the Museum. Their work was so successful and their own collection grew so rapidly that they incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, Roots of Motive Power, Inc. in 1984. Today, Roots of Motive Power, Inc. and the Museum are an effective team in the preservation of local and regional logging and railroad history. Eventually, as more and more artifacts were incorporated into exhibits, there was little remaining space for temporary shows and large events, and this aspect of programming was diminished, while artifact collections and archival materials grew. By the late 1970s and early 80s, the Museum was publishing several books per year, and had embarked on the arduous task of cataloging and refining diverse collections. In the 1980s, the role of preserving County Archives passed to the Museum Department. When the end of the century approached, plans were made to expand the facility to provide artifact storage space, double the size of the public exhibition area, and provide for classrooms, a conference room, archival reading room, conservation laboratory, office and library space for Roots of Motive Power, Inc. and an Engine House, where real, full-size railroad equipment could be displayed. An addition of 20,000 square feet was completed in 2003. The Willits Center of Mendocino College holds classes at the Museum. The Engine House was connected to the Roots Maintenance and Restoration building via standard gauge railroad track, and in 2007 the long awaited "Loop" track was completed allowing Roots to give train rides on a three-quarter mile loop of track adjacent to the Museum.