If it’s been a while since you’ve set foot into the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum, you may want to plan a visit soon.
Over the past year, the museum has been quietly updating its permanent collection, adding new displays about the town’s architecture, the cattle industry and important historical figures like General Mariano Vallejo and the McNear family.
There is also a new display showing off an old (vintage!) classroom and upgrades to the Native American artifacts section.
“The purpose of this museum is to preserve and present our history and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” said Skip Sommer, a museum board member and one of the three volunteers spearheading the upgrades. “We want to put the best face of Petaluma forward.”
Lisle Lee, who heads the accession and deaccession department at the museum, and Dan Brown, a museum board member, are also assisting. All of the items are already part of the collection, although some had to be dusted off after spending years in storage.
The museum’s permanent collection has sometimes been criticized for being cluttered and messy, with displays that were hard to follow.
Now, the second floor exhibits are sectioned off by themes, focusing on specific aspects of Petaluma history, such as the dairy industry, the river, Victorian architecture and of course, chicken farming.
“For example, we had nothing on the McNear family,” said Sommer, invoking one of Petaluma’s most famous families, who owned the Great Petaluma Mill and were involved in shipping, real estate and banking, and who brought electricity to town.
“No one has done more for Petaluma than father and son McNear.”
Another planned improvement is a wall of maps, showing the evolution of the city over the past 150 years.
All the improvements to the permanent collection are being funded through donated materials and labor.
The Petaluma Historical Museum is located at 20 Fourth Street in downtown Petaluma. Hours of operation are Thursdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 12pm to 3pm.