(Updated 8/18/2023) Description and review of the Sacramento History Museum, located in the Old Sacramento Historical District. NEW: See “Update” below.
The Sacramento History Museum was my choice of museum to visit this year on Smithsonian Museum Day. I downloaded my two free passes and invited a friend to join me.
It was a beautiful day with a light breeze. Our plan was to meet in Old Sacramento for lunch at one of the restaurants with outdoor dining, and then visit the nearby museum.
SacramentoRevealed.com – All Things Sacramento (from a personal perspective)
The Sacramento History Museum building is a reproduction of the 1854 City Hall & Waterworks Building that had been located on the site. The City Hall & Waterworks Building was the first municipal building in Sacramento.
The museum is home to thousands of interesting historical artifacts. These artifacts help to bring alive the early history of Sacramento and the Sacramento Region.
Sacramento History Museum Exhibits
The Museum houses both permanent and visiting exhibits. Permanent exhibits include artifacts that tell the story of how the city was established, and how it survived various trials including floods and fire. The Gold Rush is well represented, as is the region’s agriculture. Its historic print shop and its volunteer docent Howard who demonstrates the presses has become a sensation on TikTok during the pandemic.
The museum is also known for its living history walking tours of Old Sacramento led by docents in period costume.
See related blog post: Underground After-Hours Tour – Old Sacramento
California in Print
The new California in Print exhibit includes numerous items from the Eleanor McClatchy Collection. Eleanor McClatchy (1895-1980) was an avid collector of California History. She also headed the Sacramento Bee from 1936 to 1978.
Items on display include, for example, original Gold Rush maps, rare first edition books printed in California, a page from the Gutenberg bible and dime novels from the 1870’s – 1880’s.
May Hollister Woolsey Exhibit
Among the many interesting exhibits at the Sacramento History Museum is the May Hollister Woolsey exhibit. May, the only daughter of Mary and Luther Woolsey, died from encephalitis (a swelling of the brain) in September 1879 at age 12. The family lived at 916 E Street.
After her death records show that her grief-stricken parents consulted spiritualists in an attempt to contact her in the afterlife.
In 1979, 100 years after her death, the new owner of the E Street house found a trunk filled with May’s belongings while working on the house. The trunk held over 500 items – a time capsule that offers a glimpse of the life of a young girl in Sacramento during the 1870’s.
Knowing that May was buried in the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, a friend and I combined a walk and a search for her grave. As you can see by the photo below, visitors to her grave site still leave trinkets/gifts for her.
See related blog post: Sacramento Historic Rose Garden
To Sum Up
To sum up, my friend and I both enjoyed our visit to the Sacramento History Museum on Smithsonian Museum Day. We both learned new and interesting things about the history of the city.
See related blog post: Favorite Blog Posts
(8/18/2023) The Sacramento History Museum has revamped their May Woolsey exhibit thanks to gifts from the National Federation of the Blind and the Sacramento Pioneer Association. The exhibit now allows Museum visitors to interact with May’s story through her own words with touchable 3D reproductions and audio descriptions in English and Spanish.
Comments on the Sacramento History Museum? The living history walking tours?
What has been your experience?
Sacramento History Museum Snapshot:
- 101 I Street, Old Sacramento, CA 95814
- (916) 808-7059
- Monday – Sunday (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
- Closed Major Holidays
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