Wednesday Aug 08 2012
Explore the past on Heritage Trail museum tour
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
Visit 18 museums during free event this weekend
The Golden Drift Historical Museum is a treasure housed in a jewel box of a building on Main Street in Dutch Flat. The volunteer-run museum will be included in the free Heritage Trail Placer County Museums Tour taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11 and 12. Forty docents helped keep the museum open last year, according to Doug Ferrier, president of the Golden Drift Historical Society that has operated the museum since 1986 and now runs it under an agreement with the Placer County Museum Division. Most of the volunteers are long-term docents who have picked up nuggets of history of the area just by having worked in the museum, Ferrier said. The Golden Drift has a very friendly atmosphere and is a hands-on museum. “We’re very informal. We don’t view ourselves as being highly structured,” Ferrier said. “We have formal exhibits as such, but we also have a lot of pictures and written materials in binders that people can take outside and look through or read through. We also have a display case that doesn’t have a face on it. People can also pick up various artifacts in it that they can feel and touch.” Photographic displays and historical objects pay tribute to the Nisenan Indians and Chinese who once inhabited the area, and the Central Pacific Railroad that changed their lives. There are also histories and artifacts from Gold Run, Alta, Towle and Baxter. All five towns, he said, have a slightly different history, from gold mining to railroad related to a highway service area. “We have a huge amount of photographic resources that one can easily use to picture what it was like in the old days. … There are residents in all five of the areas, but there aren’t necessarily any businesses left in Towle and Baxter.” Dutch Flat stands out, though, because of its endurance. The town, according to Ferrier, is unique in that it is one of the few gold mining era towns that never burned over in a catastrophic fire, even though there were individual fires. He attributes that to a community that would conduct annual inspections of flues, had a volunteer fire department, and “pure blind luck.” Also worth a look is the model of a hydraulic monitor that shoots water against a hillside as it runs down into a sluice box to show visitors the workings of hydraulic mining – a significant part of the area’s history. Modern tools are also made use of in the computer room, where more photographs of the area can be seen in a revolving exhibit. To help support the museum, there’s also a gift shop where visitors can pick up post cards, books and other souvenirs. Shelley Willsmore, the Dutch Flat postmaster who is also a Golden Drift volunteer, said she has heard visitors who have served as docents elsewhere comment on the quality of the museum. “They are very impressed with the exhibits and the way they’re presented,” Willsmore said. Anne Holmes, of Gold Run, is one of the volunteers who greeted the museum’s 1,000 visitors last year. “We always need volunteers for docent,” Holmes said. “Not only are they helping the community, they also get to learn the history of the communities, which is fun. … It’s an event. People always stop by to talk, even the regulars. They look forward to having the museum open.” The Golden Drift is open from 12 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays only during September after Labor Day. Ferrier said if people come across him on the street, he’ll give tours of the museum to individuals or groups. “Because we do things informally, we are willing to open the museum at other times if people request it and we have available time,” he said. The museums on this weekend’s Heritage Trail also include other mountain museums, such as the Colfax Area Heritage Museum, from Foresthill to Tahoe City; six Auburn museums; and valley museums from Penryn to Roseville and Lincoln. There are still seats available on a bus tour set for Sunday to the valley museums. Reservations and pre-payment of $10 per person are required; call the museum office at 889-6500.