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Exhibitions at the Sacramento History Museum

Visitors to the Sacramento History Museum have the unique opportunity to delve into multiple aspects of the rich and diverse history of the Sacramento region. By exploring both permanent and temporary exhibitions, visitors gain a deeper understanding of the development of Sacramento City and County, and its unique place in the history of California and the nation. These exhibitions are developed by the curatorial staff at the Center for Sacramento History, and feature objects and artifacts from the City of Sacramento's historical collections.

Trouble in River City

During the midst of the Great Depression, Sacramento played host to a long-sunning criminal trial that captivated the nation. Trouble in River City tells the story of eighteen farm labor organizers who were tried for Criminal Syndicalism – the attempt to overthrow the government by violent means. Utilizing trial transcripts, documents and photographs, the exhibit will investigate the trial that played out for nearly four months and included such sensational elements as faked kidnappings, beatings, and media leaks.

Sacramento’s I Street Bridge

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the completion of Sacramento’s I Street bridge, the Sacramento History Museum has unveiled a special exhibit showcasing photographs of the beloved bridge.  This Sacramento landmark was built by the Southern Pacific in 1912 with contributions by Sacramento and Yolo counties.  A true engineering accomplishment in its day, this bridge was built to last.  In fact, the first train to cross the bridge did so on April 29, 1912, and train travel on the bridge continues to this day.  The Sacramento History Museum invites the community to visit the photo display and learn more about the history of this enduring landmark.


The Beginnings of Sacramento City

Gold, Greed and SpeculationThe Historic Old Sacramento Foundation and the Sacramento History Museum are proud to present Gold, Greed & Speculation: The Beginnings of Sacramento City in the museum’s lobby gallery. Visitors have the unique opportunity to explore the city’s first fifty years. The exhibit storyline goes beyond Sacramento’s origins as a gold rush boomtown, as the story is more complex than just miners seeking their fortunes in gold. Sacramento's early days are marked by surprises and contrasts, riches and scarcity, generosity and greed, and violence and beauty.

Visitors can explore this history and discover the colorful characters from a variety of cultures; vast wealth gained, lost and gained again. They can meet the individuals that forged the city, better understand its development and how its citizens withstood catastrophic floods, fires, and epidemics in the first years of its existence. Sacramento’s citizens persevered and rebuilt the city again and again playing an instrumental role in establishing it as the capital city of the State of California.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a mural that covers the mezzanine level of the museum. This mural features over one hundred and fifty images of people, places, and events that played a part—significant or seemingly small—in the area’s political, cultural, social, environmental, and economic development. Visitors can access a computer kiosk to learn more information regarding the images featured in the mural.

This exhibition, with its one-of-a-kind artifacts and interactive mural, make the museum the perfect starting point for visitors to see and learn the history of Old Sacramento, and to discover the stories of the individuals that shaped the destiny of the city.


The Community Gallery

As a community, Sacramento has changed greatly over the city's relatively young history and the Community Gallery richly details its growth in chronological order. Our visitors learn about the first people, the Nisenan & Maidu Indian Nations, through our collection of baskets, jewelry and weapons.

As you leave the Native American exhibit, you literally say goodbye to that way of life. In 1826, tempted by the abundance of fur-bearing animals, trapper Jedehiah Smith, among hundreds of men and fur companies settled this land. Of course, this huge migration had a disastrous effect on the land and native people. Animals were massacred and the Indians became infected with malaria and small pox. Thousands died.

Through carefully preserved correspondence, photographs, historic fashions and heirlooms, guests wind through the exhibit and see a city grow from a dusty miner town of the 1850s to an early 20th century where new forms of transportation and communication were introduced. The exhibits then tell the stories of Sacramento and America in a World War, Japanese-Americans being interned, and how the famous Dunlap family turned their home into a successful neighborhood restaurant.

The Agricultural Gallery

Sacramento is located in the heart of the Central Valley — one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. Agricultural pioneers are renowned for devising ingenious methods to make farm work more efficient and profitable. In this gallery, visitors see the original McCormick Reaper that revolutionized grain farming. In addition, our beautiful cannery label collection is a testament to the industry that dominated Sacramento in the early part of the 20th century.

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