From the Vault: The Museum is a Teenager!

This month we celebrate the 13th anniversary of the opening of the Turtle Bay Museum and I thought it was time for a little flashback. Years in the making, the Museum is the centerpiece of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park campus, the place where all our disciplines come together. The building was designed to house permanent exhibits relating to our region, such as our 22 thousand gallon aquarium, and temporary exhibitions developed in-house or rented from other museums and vendors. (Titanic anyone?)

Architectural model
Architectural model of the north facade of the museum. Bohlin, Cywinski, and Jackson
Shovels and blocks mark the groundbreaking. Why yes, there is a golden shovel in the Collection now.

We broke ground in April 2001, four years after the merge that formed the Exploration Park and the opening of Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp. After years of planning, construction moved quickly and the new building began to take shape over the summer of 2001.

Southwest corner
The southwest corner of the museum. The Exploration Hall is in this corner. Solid, sturdy, and capable of holding up a very heavy Tyrannosaurus.




Concrete pillars
Much of the museum is suspended on concrete pillars that go deep into the ground. The compaction process was exciting for those of us who worked in the Forest Camp at the time.


The west end of the building, which is now our main entrance and houses our Museum Store and Coffee Bar, transformed quickly from “muddy construction site” to “ready to open.” When you visit today, you will see that it is still transforming. Mature plants show the passage of time. Wider sidewalks, colorful banners, benches and other amenities have helped turn this plaza into a community gathering place.

Once the outside was buttoned up, work began in earnest on the inside. Complicated construction and exhibit fabrication took time and painstaking design and craftsmanship from many companies and individuals. A team of Turtle Bay staff worked with designers to decide on the exhibits and create the content. Staff “hard hat” tours created a lot of excitement for the project as it transformed from a shell of a building into a museum.


Main gallery
A view down into the main gallery during that “awkward phase” before the tree, barkhouse, and history galleries were installed.
Not quite finished. The tree is in and the cave is done, but none of the interpretive signage is up.


The Cavern under construction. A bit quicker than the natural process.











When the museum opened in 2002, the entrance was through the Visitor Center, the Sundial Bridge was under construction, and the driveway was still dirt. Hundreds of people came to celebrate the new museum. We were even featured on an episode of Huell Howser’s California’s Gold.




Wintu dancers, opening day
June 8, 2002. Opening Day. Wintu dancers helped us celebrate the opening of the museum and our inaugural exhibition, Journey to Justice: The Wintu and the Salmon.
Journey to Justice
A glimpse at, Journey to Justice: The Wintu and the Salmon. The swimming salmon overhead are now hanging in the main gallery.
Where there is Work
“Where there is Work” became “Dam to Bridge” in 2014 for the 10th anniversary of the Sundial Bridge. Don’t worry you can still play checkers.
Ansel Adams: Masterworks
Our first exhibition in the Art Gallery, our Ansel Adams: Masterworks. We brought the collection back in 2012 for our 10th anniversary.
Major Donor Wall
The donor wall before we had to expand it in 2007. Community support is stronger than ever.
Museum desk
Remember when the museum desk looked like this? We reconfigured it in 2013 after we officially moved the Park’s main entrance to the Museum.
























Things have changed in 13 years. We have hosted 79 large temporary exhibitions and dozens of smaller ones. We added features like Artifact of the Month, Spotlight on Northstate History, and Famous Families and did a complete renovation to one permanent gallery. This year we added a saltwater tank and a beaver to our aquatic experience. If you haven’t visited lately, it’s time to drop by and see how your museum has grown.



The Vault is always open!

Julia Pennington Cronin

Curator of Collections & Exhibits

Follow me on Twitter @CuratrixJulia

From the Vault: Artifact of the Month

Masks aren't just for Halloween
Masks aren’t just for Halloween.
Kwakwaka’wakw Mask
1976.14.58 Museum Purchase

In the summer of 2012, college volunteers Nikki Espinosa, Selena Faller and I decided to try something new to highlight Turtle Bay’s amazing and eclectic Permanent Collection. We began mining our holdings for objects to feature in a monthly rotation in a dedicated space near the museum entrance. Starting with a hand-painted drinking chocolate set from 1912, installed during the Chocolate exhibition, the goal of the project was to give guests an in-depth look at a single item, or a themed grouping of objects, from all of our different sub-collections. One benefit to the collection is the additional research done for each object selected and its connection to our region’s history.

Some objects are chosen because they fit a seasonal theme, such as historic valentines or Christmas lights. Others are chosen because they fit with an exhibition, such as Lincoln Logs from the 1920s during Toytopia or a new acquisition to our Native American Basket collection promoting Native Baskets from Northern California. Some objects, such as our vintage snakebite and anti-venin kits featured in April 2014, give us an opportunity to include another department in the project. We did a photo shoot with Snuggles, our Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, and educated our guests about our local rattlesnakes and how to avoid being bitten. Sometimes the staff and volunteers find an object we think is so wonderful we just want to show it off!

Snuggles with two artifacts
Snuggles with two artifacts
1920s Snakebite Kit & 1940s Antivenin Kit
1992.14.5, 5 Gifts of Mel Crawford

The small format of this exhibit is an excellent way to get volunteers of all ages and non-exhibit staff members involved in research and curation. It has also proven to be a way to lure in new volunteers. In the summer of 2013, we featured a wedding corset and slippers that piqued the interest of recent Bay Area transplant and costume expert Heather Vaughan Lee, who came to us as a volunteer, became a part time staff member, and who is currently preparing a research paper on our clothing and accessories for the Costume Society of America conference this month.

WWII M-422 A Navy Flight Jacket.
WWII M-422 A Navy Flight Jacket.
Worn by the donor’s father in the Pacific Theater
2011.6.3 Gift of Judith E. Salter

In 2014, Turtle Bay offered Artifact of the Month as a yearlong sponsorship opportunity at our annual auction. Dr. Pamela K. Ikuta was our first sponsor. In celebration, we delved into our medical collection and found an historic femoral head implant, which allowed us to take an in-depth look at the hip replacement surgery – and caused a number of guests to cringe as they looked at x-ray images of antique implants.

This year Dr. Julia Mooney won the sponsorship and the opportunity to work with us behind the scenes to help choose and research artifacts for the next 12 months. Come in every month to see what we’ve found in the vault to share.


Electric Fan
Electric Fan
This fan would have cost the equivalent of over $400 when it was purchased. What a luxury!
1981.46.17 Gift of Norman Braithwaite



Artifact of the month
Dr. Julia Mooney and Jamie Blankenship examine a mask for the May 2015 Artifact of the Month





Grape Chandelier from Kennet Saloon
Grape Chandelier from Kennet Saloon
Kennet is now under Shasta Lake
2003.1.1 Gift of Murray Carroll
Mt. Shasta From Heart Lake
Mt. Shasta From Heart Lake
By Edward Wilson Currier
2011.4.1 Gift of Robyn G. Peterson and William C. Miesse in memory of Linda J. Ragsdale.


















The Vault is always open!

Julia Pennington Cronin

Curator of Collections & Exhibits

Follow me on Twitter @CuratrixJulia

From the Vault: Stories from the Collection – Native American Baskets from Northern California

The roots of Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s basket collection reach back over fifty years to the founding of the Redding Museum and Art Center in 1963. Collecting and preserving Native American material culture, particularly basketry, was a priority from the start. We have collected

Patwin feathered doctor basket
Patwin feathered doctor basket
sedgeroot, woodpecker, mallard, quail, and jay feathers, clam and abalone shell, native hemp
1964.1.144 Museum Purchase

baskets from all over North America and other regions where basketry is used, but over half of our extensive collection is comprised of pieces from right here in Northern California.

Redding sits in the center of the most culturally diverse region in Native California. Dozens of tribes live in this land of marked contrasts: from the foggy coastline to the high desert, in the heavily forested mountains and broad river valleys, over rolling hills and up on volcanic crags, for thousands of years Native peoples have adapted to the land and developed their own distinct identities and lifeways. This wealth of difference is reflected in the basket-making traditions found in the North State. Environmentally specific materials, practical and spiritual needs, intertribal relationships, and cultural aesthetics all contribute to the wide variety of styles, forms, and decoration found here.

Hupa Bowl, Modoc Cooking Bowl, Wintu Bowl with Achumawi influence
Hupa Bowl (L) willow, conifer root, bear grass, maidenhair fern made by Ella Harris before 1917 1986.56.4 Gift of Anna Kjer & Audrey Kjer Caviness Modoc Cooking Bowl (UR) tule and cattail c. 1900 – 1920 1963.1.18 Museum Purchase Wintu Bowl with Achumawi influence (LR) willow, conifer root, bear grass, maidenhair fern, redbud 1930 – 1940 1978.3.4 Museum Purchase

Old baskets, new baskets, plain baskets, fancy baskets, tiny baskets, giant baskets, baskets made to hold acorns, and baskets made for collectors: these pieces are more than works of art or historic objects to be gazed upon for their beauty; they are part of a living, breathing, active, and continuing tradition. As well as demonstrating diversity, these baskets have stories to tell. They paint a picture of what life was like in Northern California before Europeans arrived in the mid-nineteenth century, and how that contact changed the region and its peoples forever. Turtle Bay’s basket collection is a dynamic tool for learning about and appreciating other cultures and for modern Native basket makers to study pieces and share information.

It has been my pleasure to work with our Native baskets for over a decade. In studying them, caring for them, finding interesting stories to tell through exhibitions, lending them to other museums, and arranging tours of the collection for basketmakers, we endeavor to keep these traditions and these objects alive. For us, the journey continues through our research and exhibitions.

Maidu Coiled Bowl and Tray
Maidu Coiled Bowl and Tray
peeled and unpeeled redbud and mud-dyed bracken fern root
the tray is 27 1/2” and the bowl is 22 1/2” in diameter
Made by Salina Jackson for sale
1978.4.1 & 2 Museum Purchase

Several years ago a researcher touring the collection asked me if I had a favorite basket. It was not something I had thought about much, but I walked straight to its storage location without consulting the catalog and pulled it off the shelf. This large, heavily used cooking bowl, probably from one of the Klamath River Basin tribes (below) caught and held my attention the first time I saw it. It isn’t pristine. The inside is heavily worn, burnt, and stained. The pattern isn’t very fancy. It isn’t covered in beads or feathers. We have no idea who made it. It is absolutely beautiful.

If you enjoyed this blog, you will love our publication, Native Baskets from Northern California: Stories from the Collection available though the museum store.


Klamath River Basin Cooking Bowl
Klamath River Basin Cooking Bowl
1986.68.9 Gift of Robert & Mabel M. Smith



The Vault is always open!

Julia Pennington Cronin

Curator of Collections & Exhibits

Follow me on Twitter @CuratrixJulia

From the Vault: Did you know we have a Collection?

The entry to Gowns to Gold Pans: 50 Years of Collecting Redding’s Art & History
The entry to Gowns to Gold Pans: 50 Years of Collecting Redding’s Art & History

Did you know that Turtle Bay Exploration Park has a Permanent Collection of over 35,000 objects ranging from fine art, to ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, to vintage clothing and antiques, to historic photographs? Items range in size from the Shay #2 Locomotive on display in Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp to tiny glass trade beads.

Our collection is a combination of pieces from the former Redding Museum of Art and History, The Forest Museum, and objects donated to Turtle Bay since our 1997 museum merge.

William Keith Canyon View – Shasta 1878 1995.38.1 Purchase funded by the McConnell Foundation

We sometimes joke that Turtle Bay is Redding’s attic. The collection reflects our area’s rich history, as well as the history and missions of the institutions that assembled it, which makes it easy to build regionally-themed exhibitions using our own objects. For example, Turtle Bay owns nearly 1,000 Native American baskets and basketry-related items. Of those, over 500 are from Northern California. Our 2014 exhibition, Native Baskets from Northern California, featured 375 of these.

Wintu Burden Basket 1976.14.9 Museum Purchase

The collection is a public resource. While our objects are stored in an off-site facility, they are not “invisible,” and anyone can make an appointment to view items of interest. Researchers frequently access the collection and supporting documents for a myriad of projects such as scholarly publications, conference presentations, and object comparison and identification. We also lend our collection to other institutions. For example, the Wintu Cultural Center in the City of Shasta Lake borrowed over 40 of our Native American objects for their museum opening in September 2013.

Our Ansel Adams Masterworks collection, exhibited in our Art Gallery in 2002 and 2012, is a traveling exhibition that tours the country earning money to support the Collections and Exhibits Department and spreading the word about Turtle Bay.

Quilts and Spinning Wheel from the collection on exhibition in Quilted: Past Present and Future in 2012

Our collection is a living, breathing representation of who we are in our region. We collect, preserve, and interpret our objects for current audiences and for future generations. As a public institution, Turtle Bay is legally and ethically bound to care for every object entrusted to the Permanent Collection through donation or sale. The museum is not currently accepting new donations because we are out of the space required to store new acquisitions correctly.

Check back next month for another update from Collections and Exhibitions and a more in-depth look at our Native American basket collection.


The vault is always open!

Julia Pennington Cronin

Curator of Collections & Exhibits

Follow me @curatrixjulia