The public is invited to the grand opening of Los Altos History Museum’s new Permanent Exhibition, “Making Connections: Stories from the Land,” on Saturday, February 11 from 11am to 4pm.
Over two years in the making, the exhibition delivers an immersive experience through expansive video walls, interactive touch screens and listening stations, and intriguing artifacts to tell the story of the people and events that shaped the area.
“The creative team wanted to leverage modern technology to tell an evolving story in a dynamic way. The underlying digital format makes it possible to rapidly update the content to ensure that the information remains fresh and relevant for the next 10 to 20 years,” said Nan Geschke, lead donor and exhibition team leader. “We’re most grateful to the many donors who helped fund this cutting-edge technology.”
The history is laid out across four sections—the hills, creeks, valley, and town—and complemented by a community corner. Teams of curators researched and gathered content that reflected the transformation of the area through the centuries. In each section, visitors can hear people stories, see artifacts, and read historic timelines anchored to that landscape.
The hills lured individuals, from indigenous dancers to modern-day thought leaders, who embraced living with nature. The creeks, the center of life for the Ohlone people, formed natural boundaries between ranches and towns and were later altered by people and events. The valley spawned industries from cinnabar mines to orchards to silicon chips. The town grew from a railroad stop to a bustling village as farms and orchards vanished to make way for retail businesses, homes, schools, and housing developments.
“Our intention in organizing the exhibition geographically is to underscore that we all share the same place, and it’s our collective responsibility to make it a community,” said Executive Director Dr. Elisabeth Ward, who served as lead curator for the exhibition and the hills section. “Our environment is a primary concern of younger generations, and we expect this exhibition to resonate with youth as well as adults. We are excited to pioneer this unique and novel approach to conveying local history here at Los Altos History Museum.”
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian remarked, “There are so many fascinating and untold stories in our cities, our towns, our neighborhoods. That’s certainly the case in Los Altos. I’m so glad our County could support this extraordinary new effort—21st-century technology connecting us to days gone by.” Santa Clara County awarded the Museum a $175,000 grant as part of the Historic Grant Program.
The Sibbett Group, specialists in crafting sensory-rich museum exhibits, collaborated on the exhibition design. Syfn Labs designed the digital storytelling features. W+W Design produced historic videos and oral history audio recordings. Electrosonic sourced and implemented the hardware, and Gizmo handled construction and fabrication.
To the delight of children and adults alike, the popular train diorama returns with new augmented reality (AR) features that further delve into the history of the local area. GuidiGO designed the AR features into the existing train diorama.
The free opening celebration will be held in the Museum’s courtyard (weather permitting) or, in the event of rain, inside the Los Altos Community Center. The schedule of activities includes:
- 11am: Courtyard opens
- 11:15am: Welcome from Muwekma Ohlone Tribe
- 11:40am: Comments from elected officials and museum representatives
- 12pm: Ribbon-cutting ceremony
- 12–4pm: Timed exhibition tours
- 12:15–3:30pm: Intercultural performances curated by Mosaic America celebrating our diverse neighborhoods through cultural expressions
Visitors may also view a display in the Main Gallery, “The Past Shapes the Future: A Retrospective ,” running from February 11 through May 28, 2023, that looks back at some of the 50-plus exhibits presented since the Museum first opened its doors to the public in 2001.
Across the courtyard, the historic J. Gilbert Smith House (currently closed) reopens for tours on February 11. The Museum’s outdoor exhibition, “Wallace Stegner: A Path to Conservation,” remains open through March 5, 2023.
Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store, and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available to rent for evening and weekend events. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.
The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours.
For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.