New Museum Exhibit, Yosemite, the Grand Experiment, Opens in Yosemite National Park

Sketch of North Dome and Washington Column
Sketch of North Dome and Washington Column by Thomas Moran, 1872

Yosemite Museum

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News Release Date: May 28, 2014

Exhibit Commemorates 150th Anniversary of Yosemite Grant

Yosemite National Park unveils a new exhibit entitled Yosemite, the Grand Experiment which opens to the public on Tuesday, June 3. It will run through Saturday, October 18, 2014. The exhibit is located in the Yosemite Valley Museum (adjacent to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center) and features paintings, prints, artifacts, and ephemera from Yosemite’s early years. Photographs and paintings of visitors and the landscape from the park museum’s extensive collection, including some of the earliest Yosemite images, will also be on display. Survey equipment, notes, and maps will be included.

Digital slide shows will include additional historic paintings, drawings and photographs. A video presentation will feature interviews with several scholars focusing on the importance of the Yosemite Grant, and the influence of painting and photography. An audio kiosk will feature quotes from various important individuals in the early years of Yosemite history.

In addition to material from Yosemite National Park’s collection, the exhibit includes items on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and several private collections.

There will be an opening reception on June 2, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., behind the Yosemite Valley Museum. Food and drinks will be served.  

The exhibit will be open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from June 3 through September 30, and from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. from October 1 through October 18, 2014.  

This exhibit project was made possible through the generous support of Yosemite Conservancy.

Pieces on display include:

  • The Edmunds report, written by the Commissioner of the General Land Office for the Chair of the House Committee on Public Lands, describing the proposed Yosemite Grant, and sent one week before the Grant legislation was signed in 1864 (this document is on loan to the National Park Service from the National Archives in Washington D.C.)
  • Willis Guide to Gold Mines, 1849 (The only known surviving example of this handwritten guide for 49ers traveling to California: this was James Mason Hutchings’ copy)
  • Captain Dick’s shot pouch and powder horn, dating prior to the arrival of the Mariposa Battalion
  • Thomas Ayres “The High Falls” 1855, one of the earliest known images made of the Valley landscape, later reproduced as a print
  • Frederick Butman’s “Yosemite Falls,” 1859, one of the earliest oil paintings of Yosemite
  • Carleton Watkins’ mammoth photograph “Outline View of the Half Dome”, one of the 1861 photographs circulated on the east coast and credited with familiarizing legislators and others with Yosemite’s landscape
  • Albert Bierstadt’s “Night at Valley View,” 1864, painted after his 1863 visit to Yosemite
  • A Civil War Era transit, similar to equipment used to produce the first maps of the Yosemite Grant (on loan to the National Park Service from the Center for Military History).
  • James Gardner’s manuscript field notes from his 1864 survey of the Yosemite Valley and Big Tree Grants
  • Charles Hoffman’s 1867 hand-painted plat map of the Yosemite Valley, outlining private land claims on the Yosemite Valley floor
  • The Grand Register of the Cosmopolitan Saloon

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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