Thursday, November 25, 2021

National Museum of the American Indian in NYC


Quechua Echo - Cuzco, Peru 1950

The Smithsonian Institute is based in Washington DC. It is a wonderful collection of museums that allow people to explore art, design and history. There is one museum that is different from the others. The National Museum of the American Indian is actually split between two different cities, two-hundred miles apart.

George Gustav Heye by Richard Arthur Norton (1958- )via wikicommons

In 1916, George Gustav Heye, an engineer and investment banker, who had been collecting Indian artifacts for over ten years, used his collection to found the Museum of the American Indian. It opened in 1922 as part of the Audubon Terrace complex in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of New York City. In 1987, Sen. Patrick Moynihan (NY) proposed moving the museum into recently decommissioned Hamilton Custom House at New York’s Bowling Green. At about the same time, Sen. Daniel Inouye (HI) sponsored a bill to create the National Museum of the American Indian as part of the Smithsonian Institute. The goal was to incorporate the Heye collection into the new museum. However, there was one hitch, Heye’s donation required that his collection remain in New York City. A compromise was reached in 1998, in which a new museum would be built in Washington DC, but the Heye collection remain in a branch of the museum at the Custom House.


The Alexander Hamilton Custom House was opened in 1907. It is a beautiful beaux-arts building. U.S. Customs Department moved out of the building in 1972, and it was renovated in 1990 to house The Heye Collection, The U.S Bankruptcy Court, and the National Archives at New York City. Its main entrance is by an exterior stairway to the second floor vaulted entry hall.Past the hall is the Great Hall, a rotunda capped by a large oval skylight. The skylight is surrounded by murals depicting the shipping history of the New York Harbor. The museum occupies the former office space that lines the rotunda.

Rotunda and Skylight

When I visited, there were three shows on exhibit. Stretching the Canvas presents a collection of paintings done by Native artists from 1920 through the present. They represent a wide variety of artists from many different nations, and in many different styles.

New Mexico Desert by Kay WalkingStick

Indian and Rhinoceros by Fritz Scholder

Fortune by Judith Lowery

Red Lake Series #5 by Juane Quick-to-See Smith

Pueblo at Dusk by Dan Namingha

Dance Break by Harry Fonseca


Native New York is an exhibit that explores the history of Indian people in New York State. It details the historical, cultural, and economic contributions of the different nations that have and still live here. It covers the history of people from the founding of New York through today.

Tuscarora Bag, 1880-1920

Heart Whimsey by Grant Jonathan

Hiawatha Belt replica - Iriquois

The third exhibit is a rotating show of pieces from the Heye collection titled Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian. 700 pieces from the permanent collection are on display, organized geographically, and exploring the the cultures of different nations.

Mapuche Kultrung (Matche's Drum) - Chile

Two Moche Stirrup Vessels - Peru

Karajá ijasò mask and rattles - Brazil

Polychrome Jar by Rosalia Medina Toribio

Story Teller

Ute Cradleboard (left) and Bannock Cradleboard (right)

Ute Shirt (left) and Eastern Shoshone Girl's Dress (right

The Heye Collection of the National Museum of the American Indian is a great place to take a short, but fun, exploration into the art and history of Native Americans. It is worth a visit.

Nuts and Bolts:

Getting There - Several subway lines stop in the area. The 4 and 5 trains at Bowling Green, the 1 train at South Ferry and the R train at Whitehall St.

Hours - Monday - Friday from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The museum is free at all times. Because this is a federal building, visitors must pass through a metal detector, and bags, through an x-ray machine. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Gold Mining History in Auburn CA


Old Town Auburn

In 1848, gold was discovered in the mountains along the Sacramento and American Rivers in California. As miners began to flood the area, they explored the areas around the rivers, looking for places to pan for gold, and they set up camps. Many of those camps grew into the towns that line the river today. Auburn, CA, is one of those with a history that back to The Gold Rush.

Old Town Auburn-1934 by Historic American Buildings Survey via Wikicommons

In the spring of 1848, a camp was established by French miners headed for Coloma, CA. One of the miners, Claude Chana, was panning for gold in a stream, when he discovered gold. Chana, Francois Gendron, and Philibert Corteau decide to stay in what would become known as Auburn Ravine, to continue prospecting and mining. In 1849, the town of Auburn was founded, named by miner who had traveled from Auburn, NY. In 1851, Auburn was named as the seat of Placer County and in 1865, the Central Pacific Railroad came to town, on its way to Ogden, Utah, and the first trans-continental railway.

Old Auburn Station by Hikki Nagasaki via Wikicommons

Today, the Placer County Courthouse is still in Auburn, and that is where you will find the Placer County Museum. The museum fills the first floor of the courthouse and contains many artifacts from the area’s history. The artifacts include those from indigenous peoples. starting with the Martis, who lived in the area as far back as 20,000 years ago, to the Nisenan who have lived in the area in more recent times. It includes mining gear and products from local industries. There are also exhibits from the lives of the farmers and workers who lived in the area.

Placer County Courthouse

"Music - The Kind you Like"

At the bottom of the ravine is Old Town Auburn. Many of the buildings in this area date back to the late 1800’s. These include the original Auburn post office, which opened in 1870. It is the longest serving post office west of the Mississippi River.

Old Town Post Office

There is also, the old Auburn Fire Station #2. This wood building has a classic engine inside and beautiful decorations on the outside.

Across from the fire house you will find a monument to Claude Chana. This 45-ton statue was sculpted by local dentist Ken Fox.

Old Town is now a place to come for shopping and restaurants.


From Old Town, it is about 3/4 of a mile uphill to the center of town. Here you will find more shops and restaurants to enjoy. Take a walk up Lincoln Way. Browse the stores that sell antiques, second hand goods, and modern fashions. At the top of the hill is the old Auburn depot, which is now the Placer County Gold Rush Museum. In front of the museum is another statue by Ken Fox, this one a monument to the Chinese laborers who built the trans-continental railroad.

The Gold Rush is the base of U.S. in the area around Sacramento California. There are a lot of place to stop and explore different parts of that history. Auburn is a great place to include on that list.

Nuts and Bolts:

Auburn is about 35 miles east of Sacramento, on I-80.

Placer County Museum is free and open 7 days a week, except for County holidays. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

William Land Park and the Sacramento Zoo


Sacramento, California, is a wonderful city to visit. There are a lot of things to do, exploring the history of the state and local outdoor life. One great way to spend a day, especially if you are traveling with children, is to visit William Land Park, on the city’s south side.

William Land Park is about four miles south of Old Sacramento, along the Sacramento River. It is named for one of the early European residents of Sacramento. He is best known for building the Western Hotel in town in 1875. The park has many attractions, including picnic areas, running paths and a public golf course on its 207 acres.

One place to start your visit is at the Lotus Pond. It was built originally as a duck pond. In 2005, park gardener Daisy Mah planted on lotus flower in the pond. Over the years that one plant has multiplied to cover almost the entire area of the pond.

Nearby is Fairytale Town. This is an attraction for children with activities based on many traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Unfortunately, I could not visit Fairytale Town because adults must be accompanied by a child, and I was on my own.

A short walk will bring you to Funderland, an amusement park for children. Funderland has about a dozen rides for kids, including a small roller coaster, a train, and some cars to “drive”.

The main attraction is the Sacramento Zoo. The zoo opened in 1927 with forty animals on four acres. Today it’s more than fourteen acres house over five hundred animals. Among those are giraffes, which you can help feed (for an extra fee). You can also see a red panda, orangutans, chimpanzees and many others. The Zoo also offers many educational stations, including tables staffed by zoo keepers.



Red Panda



Feeding time




Red Boar

William Land Park is in the middle of the Land Park neighborhood, where there are many restaurants to eat at. The Sacramento River Bike Path is also nearby.

Nuts and Bolts:

Fairytale Town is open daily from March - Oct and Thu - Sun from Nov - Feb. The entrance fee is $6 on weekdays and $7 on weekends.

Funderland is open Tues - Sat. from March-Oct. Along with some days in November. Fees are $20 - children/ $15 - adults/ $10 - seniors.

Sacramento Zoo is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission prices vary by the day you visit, and how far in advance you buy your tickets but run around $20/person.