Sunday, February 1, 2009

San Mateo County History Museum Review

The San Mateo County Museum is a nice spot for kids and people who want to learn a few things about local history, but that's about it. This place is very "white" and it does not represent the community. I'd have to say that due to the fact that the museum is small there is so much that you can fit there so that might have something to do with the fact that it lacks a few things.

There is a room about transportation which is significant to this area because even though there are a lot of great old cities in the Bay it was difficult for people to get from one place to the next because of the lack of transportation. That changed with the arrival of the railways and we see a boost in the population, which leads to the next room.

The following room is about how it was easy for people to move to cities around the bay because there were developers who marketed the dream right and made it simple for people to own their own house and appliances. There's also a room devoted to the "Great Estates," which basically has furniture from the homes and portraits.

The hallways of the museum (which is actually the old San Mateo County Court House) used to be decorated with large photographs of various farming families, but now photos of the Great Estates have also occupied those spots. I loved these farming photos because it put a face to the families who have owned the farms and have kept the family business going through the generations.

My favorite room is called "Nature's Bounty" and it has a replica of an Ohlone house as well as some objects from the Mexican Rancho period, but the actual room is unkempt. There were drawers to pull out to view some objects that were important to this period but they were poorly organized. This room is mainly about how the natural resources of the area benefited the people who have occupied it. You also see a transition as you move along the room at the excess and complexity of things that were used to help the cities grow such as the Redwood trees used to build homes and the shell mounds recycled and made into cement to build the Hayward Bridge.

There's one room upstairs that highlights the various communities of the county, but even this room is kinda dry. There's basically a case with a costume and or artifacts in it to depict the community. For example, the Portuguese case holds a wedding looking gown with a huge red velvet cape with the image of Jesus on it. There's a small explanation about the dress, which basically says that it was worn by a queen. In the Portuguese American community there's a festival celebrated in which a lady is chosen to be queen. I liked learning about this, but I thought it was just a shame that the entire Portuguese community of San Mateo County was represented in the confinements of small case.

Since our goal was to look at how Mejicanos are represented in this museum I'd have to say that we are represented in the form of a traditional Adelita dress and a replica of a Dia De Los Muertos Altar.

In conclusion a lot of work needs to be done to teach the community about the history of Mejicanos in the San Mateo County. Gotta start writing that history!

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