Madera County Museum
It’s a great time to visit the Madera County Museum---unless it is very hot!
Why now and not during the summer? Well, the museum has many things – including one of the best collections of history in the Central Valley – but the one thing it doesn’t have is air conditioning. In fact, it’s often closed in the summer because of the heat.
Don’t let that be a deterrent
I was blown away by the museum’s extensive collection and the successful way in which it brings to life the history of our valley. It’s a “new favorite” on my list of local places.
Although not air conditioned, it is heated, so you can visit in comfort throughout the cooler months. If you plan to visit around the holidays, call and make sure the museum will be open. The museum holds special events throughout the year and is specially decorated for Christmas.
Like the Merced County Historical Society Museum, it is located in county’s old courthouse. You can find it at 210 W. Yosemite Avenue – only about 30 miles south of Merced.
The main floor is divided up into rooms based on important themes in Madera County history. Although there are some differences between its history and Merced County’s history, there are also many similarities.
The major exhibits include Native Americans, pioneers, agriculture and ranching, logging, early photography, a reproduction of a turn-of-the-century general store, and the involvement of Madera County citizens in America’s wars.
Every possible display space has been used to showcase a truly amazing collection of artifacts – including many things I haven’t seen in any other museum.
Some of my favorites include a full-size reproduction of a logging flume, an excellent collection of Native American basketry, an altar cloth from the temple in Madera’s Chinatown, and an example of a “duster” worn by stagecoach passengers to protect clothing from dusty roads.
Several rooms on the second floor recreate a turn-of-the-century home. The original courtroom remains much as it was when the building was constructed. One of the largest rooms contains representations of Madera storefronts and window displays of the past century.
A restored stagecoach
Once used on the road from Madera County to Yosemite National Park, is one of the highlights.
By the time we’d seen the second floor, I was already more than impressed and ready to write a glowing review about it on this website.
Then we headed down to the basement. The sign at the top had led me to expect a room or two of tools and machinery.
Instead I found that the entire basement was also crammed with exhibits including a meticulously recreated blacksmith shop, a miner’s cabin and mining relics, a display about the granite quarry at Knowles, and an extensive collection of antique household and office technology.
Throughout the museum history is brought to life by a well-chosen collection of historic photos. Allow at least an hour and a half… better yet, plan for two hours or more. We stayed until closing time and could have stayed longer.
The museum is only open from 1 to 4PM on Saturdays and Sundays.
For more information you can call (559) 673-0291.