Mariposa County Museums

Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

 

Mariposa County Museums

Mariposa County’s history and natural resources provide a wealth of interesting stories, knowledge, and sights. 

Three excellent museums display some of these treasures to the public.  Located adjacent to Merced County’s eastern boundary, Mariposa County is an easy day or weekend trip.

Museums can be enjoyed any time of year.  They’re a great way to escape the heat of summer or the cold and wet of winter. 

Even on a pleasant spring or fall day, there’s nothing wrong with spending a few hours indoors.  If the weather is really bad, however, call in advance to make sure the museum will be open.

On a very wintry day last year I found the Mariposa Museum and History Center closed.  Many stores in town were also closed and I was informed that this was due to the expectation of worse weather yet to come.

Mariposa Museum and History Center

5119 Jessie Street, Mariposa

Hours of Operation and Admission

  10AM – 4PM daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, $4 adults, children under 18 free. Active duty military personnel and first responders in uniform or with active duty ID are also free.

Exhibits and Collections

  The Mariposa Museum and History Center tells the story of Mariposa County from the Miwok Indians who first inhabited the area to the miners of the California Gold Rush and the ranchers who supplied the mining towns. 

You can also learn about the early Chinese inhabitants of the county, John C. Fremont, Joaquin Murietta, the Yosemite Valley Railroad, and logging.  The museum contains reproductions of early stores and homes and displays of mining technology and methods. 

Various rotating exhibits provide something new for repeat visitors.  Outside the walls of the museum is a large collection of mining and ranching equipment including an operational 5-stamp mill and a monitor used in hydraulic mining. 

In addition, the grounds include historic Mariposa County buildings dating back to the 1850’s:  the Counts House, the office and print shop of the Mariposa Gazette newspaper, a broom making shop, and a reconstruction of a typical blacksmith shop.

Other Facilities and Services 

A picnic area is provided.  The gift shop has an excellent selection of works on local history. 

The museum’s website has a map for those interested in doing a historical walking tour of the town.

Research Opportunities

The museum contains a large collection of county records and historic photos, especially useful for family historians. 

Appointments must be made in advance and a fee of $25/hour is charged. 

Free access to the research library is one of the benefits provided to members of the museum. 

Copies of documents and photos can be made for a small fee.

Tours

Group tours and school field trips can be arranged by contacting the museum. 

The 5-stamp mill is often operated for groups. 

Photo by Adam Blauert

Photo by Adam Blauert

Blacksmithing demonstrations and gold panning can be arranged.

Special Events and for more information

Go to www.mariposamuseum.com

or call (209) 966-2924.

Saint Joseph Church in Mariposa founded in 1857

California State Mining and Mineral Museum

Photo by adam Blauert

Location:  5005 Fairgrounds Road, Mariposa

Hours of Operation:  From October 1 through April 30, the museum is open 10AM – 4PM Thursday through Sunday. 

From May 1 through September 30, the hours change to 10AM – 5PM.  

Admission:  $4 adults, children 12 and under are free.

Exhibits and Collections

  • The Mining and Mineral Museum displays both the mineral variety of California and the state’s mining history.
  • The museum’s collection includes thousands of specimens.
  • Collections are rotated and about 350 specimens are on display at any given time.
  • The 13.8 pound Fricot Nugget – the largest remaining intact mass of crystalline gold from the California Gold Rush –is one of the most popular attractions.
  • Visitors are often surprised to see the museum’s California diamonds.  On the back side of the museum building is a life-size reproduction of a mining tunnel, open for exploration.
  • A “touch table provides children with an opportunity to handle mineral specimens.

Other Facilities and Services

  • Gift shop
  • Tours:  School and group tours can be arranged.

Special Events

 The museum presents a gem and mineral show in April with special exhibits and activities for children. 

Activities for children are also offered on Labor Day Weekend when the Mariposa County Fair is held at the adjacent fairgrounds.

For More Information

Go to http://parks.ca.gov/?page_id=588

or call (209) 742-7625.

Northern Mariposa County History Center

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Location:  Intersection of Highways 132 and 49, Coulterville

Hours of Operation:  10AM – 4PM, Wednesday-Sunday, except major holidays. 

Exhibits and Collections

 Divided from the town of Mariposa by the deep Merced River Canyon, Coulterville has long been the population center of northern Mariposa County. 

Today, Coulterville has its own museum that focuses on the unique history of this part of the county. 

The museum’s displays are housed in two historic buildings that date back to 1856 and 1863.  

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Locally known as the “Coulterville Museum,” the Northern Mariposa County History Center displays and interprets a broad range of artifacts and stories. 

Permanent exhibits chronicle the history of Coulterville and local mining and ranching operations. 

Rotating exhibits provide new surprises for repeat visitors. 

PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

One of the most popular attractions is “Whistling Billy,” a small locomotive engine that hauled ore from the Mary Harrison Mine. 

The engine is open to the public and visitors can climb inside the cab for photographs. 

A building behind the museum houses wagons, mining, and farming equipment.

Other Facilities and Services:  The gift shop offers a number of unique books that have been published by the museum.

Research Opportunities

The museum’s archive is open to researchers.  Appointments must be made in advance.

Tours:  Group and school tours can be arranged by contacting the museum.  Tours are often led by docents in period dress. 

A walking tour of the town of Coulterville is also available.

Special Events

 The museum holds community breakfasts in the Old School House (two blocks away) on the 2ndSunday of each month.  

Visitors often chose to show up for the breakfast and then tour the museum.  Adults are $5, children are $3. 

 The museum hosts “Historical Afternoons on the third Saturday of each month in the spring and fall. 

These living oral history presentations are held in the IOOF building (5030 Main Street, two blocks from the museum). 

The cost is $3 per person.

For More Information:  Go to http://coultervillemuseum.org

or call (209) 878-3015.