Focusing on San Diego’s first inhabitants, a colorful kaleidoscope of Kumeyaay, Spanish, Mexican and early American settlers up to 1885, the Museum of San Diego History will unveil the second phase of its permanent exhibition in Balboa Park on July 19. The new exhibition examines the significant impact these influential cultures had in shaping the region’s identity and physical development.
Numerous artifacts from the San Diego Historical Society’s vast collections, many never before seen on public display, will become educational tools in the multi-dimensional exhibition. Featured objects on display will be a Concord Stagecoach, a 19th century ore cart similar to what was used in mining operations in the backcountry communities and an 1850 hand-appliquéd, red and white cotton quilt crafted by Juana Machado which was honored by the California Heritage Quilt Project. The quilt will hang alongside personal photographs of the Machado family, homage to one of the longest living Mexican families in the County.
“We [the Museum of San Diego History] are letting the artifacts tell the story,” states head curator Nicholas Vega, adding, “the historical basis of contemporary San Diego, as we know it today, is a combination of the merging of these four cultures (Kumeyaay, Spanish, Mexican, and early American settlers up to 1885).” Over time, more than 2,000 items from the San Diego Historical Society’s vaults will rotate through the exhibition.
The new gallery caters to all ages and is family friendly. Young children will be guided graphically throughout the displays by Bum, San Diego’s stow-a-way “town dog” whom arrived in 1886 aboard the steamer Santa Rosa. Children will also have the opportunity to dress up in mock Victorian-era dresses and suit coats to model in front of the hanging mirror that once adorned the guest lounge of the historic Horton House Hotel.
According to Watson, Place of Promise: Stories of San Diego “builds on the central idea that San Diego is a place of promise, a place where stories are created and told, where the future becomes the present, and the present unfolds in all its diversity.”