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In the Museums of Sonoma County
— Napa, Sonoma, & Marin



Intro

The Museums of Sonoma County consists of an art museum and a history museum housed in two buildings on the same block in Santa Rosa. The Art Museum, which presents national and international exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, features artists who have lived and worked in Northern California. The History Museum is a regional history center.



In the Museums of Sonoma County

The Museums of Sonoma County consists of an art museum and a history museum housed in two buildings on the same block in Santa Rosa. The Art Museum, which presents national and international exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, features artists who have lived and worked in Northern California. The History Museum is a regional history center.

The backstory of the History Museum is as unusual as the museum itself. In 1985 it opened as the Sonoma County Museum and was housed inside the historic 1910 post office building. A recent event underscores how well known, recognizable and memorable the iconic building is. A man came in with a package, explaining to a museum staffer that he’d liked to have it shipped. He didn’t realize that the building hadn’t served as a post office since the 1960s. (The staffer kindly redirected him to the Santa Rosa Main Post Office.)

On its way to becoming the History Museum, the old post office building not only went through a renovation, but also a relocation. When it faced possible demolition in 1979, it was moved over 750 feet to its new location on Seventh Street, between A and B Streets. Once there, architect Dan Petersen restored it as a museum and placed the building on the National Register of Historic Places. It reopened in 1985 as the Sonoma County Museum. During the next thirty years, it expanded to cover the entire Seventh Street block, with the Sculpture Garden added in 2011 and the Art Museum in 2015.

What’s inside the museums is equally fascinating. With two gallery spaces, 10 to 12 changing exhibitions each year, and events such as lectures, workshops and jazz concerts, there is always something new to experience at the Museums of Sonoma County. The Art Museum’s permanent collection includes historic 19th century California landscape paintings. The Sculpture Garden filled with unique and whimsical works that consistently please and surprise visitors. Among the many sculptors represented are Edwin Hamilton, Bruce Johnson and Mario Uribe.

The History Museum’s commitment to staying relevant and engaging is manifested in a special project now under way: the Sonoma County Fire Project. “The fires affected our entire community,” says a spokesperson. “As a collecting Museum and arts organization, we felt we had a responsibility to document and preserve this historic event in order to be able to tell the complete story for generations to come.” The Fire Project is comprised of the Fire Collection and the Fire Wall. The focus of the Fire Collection is to create a permanent historical record of one of the most important and pivotal events in Sonoma County history. The Fire Wall is an online searchable display and digital repository of the community's creative reflections and personal stories of the firestorms and their aftermath. It is designed to be inclusive, broad in scope and empowering to all who participate and experience it.

Also on display at the History Museum is Lost Santa Rosa. This new installation explores the changing face of the city during its 150th anniversary. The title refers I part to the fact that disasters — such as the 1906 earthquake and the 2017 firestorms — can instantly result in the loss of iconic buildings. Other changes were brought about by more gradually and less drastically. These forces include changes in population size and demography, as well as neglect and deliberate decisions. The exhibition chronicles the city’s evolution, along the way pointing out its vanished neighborhoods and explaining how the city has been influenced by. Disasters and urban renewal.

At the Art Museum, Time & Place: Human Impact and Our Changing Environment runs through September 23, 2018. On October 6, the commemorative anniversary exhibition From the Fire: A Community Reflects and Rebuilds opens. It focuses is the 2017 firestorms, and collected objects and artworks are included.

Locals and tourists alike enjoy shopping and dining in Santa Rosa’s Historic Railroad Square and Courthouse Square, tasting world-class wines at its wineries and visiting the city’s wonderful parks. While here, though, make time to explore the Museums of Sonoma County, a treasure that’s within walking distance of the Downtown Santa Rosa SMART Train platform.



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