‘Gold Fever!’ hits the Park City Museum
‘Untold Stories’ exhibit showing through Nov. 7
The Park City Museum’s new exhibit, “Gold Fever! Untold Stories of the California Gold Rush,” features a treasure trove of lesser-known tales centered around the impact the aurous ore had on the land and population between 1848 and 1855.
The exhibit, which is on display through Nov. 7, uses more than 20 photo-mural panels to convey these narratives from perspectives that haven’t been highlighted in the past, said Courtney Titus, Park City Museum’s curator of collections and exhibits.
“It gives a background of California before the Gold Rush that includes Californios, or Spanish Californians, missionaries, women and Native peoples, and then it tells about what happened to these people and the land after gold was discovered,” Titus said. “It showcases these firsthand experiences through letters, diaries and other correspondence by people who were living in California or moved to California at that time.”
Gold was discovered in January 1848 by carpenter and sawmill operator James W. Marshall in the American River near Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California.
“Gold changed everything,” Titus said. “It brought people from all corners of the United States as well as the world, to California. Many of these people risked their lives and faced all sorts of hardships to get some gold.”
Right before the Gold Rush started, San Francisco’s total population was only 800 people, and by 1853, the number had risen to more than 50,000 people, according to Titus.
“That rise helped California become a state in 1850, and when the Gold Rush ended in 1855, more than 300,000 people had taken up residence,” she said.
In addition, “Gold Fever!” examines vigilante justice, life in the prospectors’ camps, Gold Rush-era commerce, and farming and politics, all of which shaped California’s future, Titus said.
“The exhibit also addresses the discrimination that was experienced by Mexicans, Chinese, Native Americans and others once gold was discovered, she said. “So, while the Gold Rush was a way for some people to strike it rich, it was other people’s worst nightmare.”
Titus booked the exhibit, which was originally organized and produced by the Oakland Museum in California in collaboration with the California Council for the Humanities, for the Park City Museum a couple of years ago.
“When I’m deciding what traveling exhibits we want to bring in, I think about finding exhibits that tell the stories of the West that help put the stories we tell at the museum into context, because our focus is pretty much focused on Park City History,” she said. “I want people to understand what else was going on in the broader area when Park City was in the middle of its silver mining era. I thought it would be interesting for visitors to compare and contrast the consequences of the discovery of gold in California with the discovery of silver in Park City.”
The Park City Museum is the last venue that will show “Gold Fever! Untold Stories of the California Gold Rush” before the exhibit is retired from touring, Titus said.
“We are lucky to have it, and we think it’s pretty incredible we have this chance to show it,” she said.
When: Showing through Nov. 7
Where: Park City Museum, 528 Main St.
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City Hall and the Arts Council of Park City and Summit County presents Pumpkin Fest at Bonanza Art Park next week.