The West County Museum
Coronavirus Update: Our museum gallery is temporarily closed as Sonoma County is on Level Purple for reopening of museums, last updated as of January 2021.
Voices from the Past
The Western Sonoma County Historical Society has partnered with California Revealed, a State Library initiative to help California’s public libraries to digitize, preserve, and to provide access to the audio recordings of our local citizens, called oral histories, which provides on line access to everyone.
Now the Historical Society can offer, to the public, the opportunity to listen to these amazing recordings in full length right from the comfort of your living room. They can be heard by visiting www.archive.org or californiarevealed.org When at the sites just do a search for Western Sonoma County Historical Society and click on our logo.
The subjects of the recordings include railroad history, agriculture, businesses, the 1906 earthquake, and schools. Some of the Museum staff’s personal favorites are: William Borba, who was Sebastopol’s historian who also had a large photographic collection; Jack Fore, a local banker who knew the stories of many people and businesses; Richard Keil, who tells of his memories of the Luther Burbank Experiment Farm as his father (employed by the Stark Bros) took over management of the Farm; and Virginia Sustarich, who was the woman in charge at the time the Speas Distillery was shut down and knew the history of the plant. The history that these folks and all the others share is a real treasure that everyone will enjoy.
Although our museum doors are temporarily closed, all is not lost! We invite you to virtually visit our newest exhibit celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote.
Our museum is transformed into a “Suffrage Headquarters” where you will be informed about the highlights of the suffrage movement and the life and times of the major leaders. Did you know about our own local Suffragists, women who lived nearby and who were active in the fight for the vote? Also, you will discover the travelling speakers who made event stops here in Sebastopol, such as the Women’s Suffrage Public Meeting at Janssen’s Hall.
Enjoy our most recent exhibit from home!
We hope you will enjoy the many authentic suffrage artifacts we have on display and books related to the topic, such as, “Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait!” by Tina Cassidy.
You might want one of our political pins, announcing your support for the movement or even a pin to stand against the vote! And, of course, we have tee shirts available in our gift shop printed with the phrase, “A woman’s place is in the polling booth.” We hope our reopening happens soon and you can plan on an in-person visit to the gallery and the gift shop!
Here is the link to view the living exhibit: “Suffrage Headquarters.”
P&SR RAILROAD DEPOT HISTORY
The Petaluma and Santa Rosa Electric Railway Depot built in 1917 was designed by Brainerd Jones, noted Petaluma based architect. The Western Sonoma County Historical Society in cooperation with the City of Sebastopol, undertook the restoration of the Depot in the1980’s restoring to near replication of the period of the 1900’s. Completion of the restoration and opening of the West County Museum was in 1993 and opened with an exhibit on the Railroads. The Depot was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1996.
TRIGGS REFERENCE ROOM LIBRARY AND GALLERY
The museum houses three sections of interest including The Triggs Reference Room, the Jim Nagy Memorial Gallery, and the main exhibit area with a small gift shop. The Triggs Reference room includes local authors as well as national publications with a West County focus.
There are two Arcadia Books with local focus, written by West County Museum Staff. They are titled “Sebastopol’s Gravenstein Apple Industry” and “Sebastopol.”
The reference room also contains histories and newspaper clippings about local families and businesses; a P&SR Railroad history; a collection of Oral Histories on tape and videos which tell personal recollections of early days in West County.
The museum has hard bound editions of the Sebastopol Times and Sonoma West Times newspapers from 1942-2018, donated by Rollie Atkins owner of the Sonoma West Times. Also available is a collection of enlarged City maps dating from 1888 to the 1960’s.
Museum exhibits include a variety of topics which focus on Sebastopol and west Sonoma County history. There are two permanent exhibits in the Jim Nagy Memorial Gallery. Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway History and Sebastopol’s Story and details both subjects in depth. Past exhibits have explored movies filmed in Sonoma County, World War II Experiences on the Home Front, the Apple Festivals and Fairs, Early Lighting Devices, Pomo Indians, the Hippies, and others.
There are over 7,000 donated photographs in our collection. Each one is identified, scanned for preservation, and placed in archival material. Some of the many topics the photographs covered are people, businesses, landscape, and historic homes, schools and town events. A link to our photograph collection can be seen at digital.sonomalibrary.org
The museum has a collection of artifacts which are used periodically for exhibits. Most artifacts have been donated and have a connection to the west county. Each object is identified giving the source it was obtained from’ and cataloged and photographed. Some of our collection is housed in our bright yellow “boxcar” at the back of the museum.
Our gift shop contains such books covering Luther Burbank, local Sebastopol history, the Railroads, and local pioneer books authored by local writers. There is a fun assortment of items for sale including railroad map posters, west county scenes stationary, P&SR logo t-shirts and caps and the shirts from our current “Suffrage Headquarters” exhibit.
ON GOING EVENTS
Please enjoy our current virtual event Suffrage Headquarters. We invite you to virtually visit our newest exhibit celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote.
Although our doors are currently closed, please enjoy an interview with local author and Historical Society Vice President, Frank Baumgardner on the publication of his new book, Golden Dreams, True Stories of Adventure in the California Gold Rush.
Location: 261 South Main Street, next door to the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce and across from the Post Office. Phone 707-829-6711