Take a stroll back in time at this Petaluma museum

ByChris Bollini KGO logo
Tuesday, July 9, 2024 10:16PM
Take a stroll back in time at this Petaluma museum
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum preserves local history, but also creates a place for community.

PETALUMA, Calif. -- The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum preserves local history but also creates a place for community.

"This space has welcomed visitors from all backgrounds for more than 120 years," executive director Stacey Atchley shares. "And we want to continue to be a dynamic civic hub for Petaluma, visitors from out of town, all people are welcome here."

Originally the town's library funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the museum is housed in the impressive neoclassical building designed by architect Brainerd Jones.

"The columns, the pediment, the steps leading up to the building really create a sense of importance and convey that there's something special inside," Atchley explains. "But what I love is that it then opens up into this very warm interior."

It served as a library for decades until the 1970s when the community outgrew the building.

"A group of community leaders stepped forward and thanks to them, we have this beautiful space preserved as the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum," Atchley reveals.

Permeant exhibits chronicle the daily lives of residents as well as highlight the town's early booming industry like the historic production of butter and eggs.

"'Petaluma became known as the "egg basket of the world,'" Atchley shares.

Other exhibits explore the town's not-so-distant past.

"At this museum, we also want to look at more contemporary history as well," Atchley states. "American Graffiti is one of those movies that people associate with Petaluma."

A permanent display offers a glimpse at photos, production pieces and artifacts from the film. The museum also prides itself on presenting rotating, temporary exhibits.

"For instance, 'Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women,'" Atchley says. "We don't often hear the words of these women themselves and so through photographs and excerpts taken from their journals and letters...we will be able to help share what life was like during those journeys."

For Atchley, looking towards the future is always part of the past.

"We promote cultural diversity and discussion of different ideas. We can use our collections to tell stories about the past," Atchley tells, "I think it's important to talk about the past and to learn what that happened so that going forward, we can make better choices as a community."

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