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Carmel Valley history museum ready to open


Published: November 29, 2013

NEARLY FIVE years after construction began on the Carmel Valley History Center, the museum celebrates its grand opening Saturday, Dec. 7.
The Carmel Valley Historical Society will unveil the 2,400-square-foot building and its contents in a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 2 to 4 p.m. Ellsworth Gregory, who served as president of the historical society for 17 years, will cut the ribbon.

To build the museum, $600,000 was raised through donations, fundraisers and grants from taxpayers. A donor tile project alone netted $50,000.

“A lot of people gave whatever they could — from $10, to thousands of dollars,” said Reggie Jones, president of the historical society. “We’re grateful to a large cross-section of people for their support.”

On display at the museum will be its first three exhibits, each offering visitors a window in the valley’s rich and colorful past.

The first exhibit, curated by Donna Zahn, focuses on the valley’s oldest human inhabitants, the Rumsen and Esselen Native American tribes.

“The Rumsen lived between the mouth of the valley and about 20 miles up the valley, while the Esselen lived in the mountains and along the Big Sur coast,” Jones explained. “We have mortars and pestles for grinding acorns, bow and arrows, a lot of original arrowheads, and small stone tools. We also have a reproduction of a boat that was used by indians along the Carmel River. It was made out of tule reeds by Linda Yamane, who is descended from the Rumsen tribe.”

The second display offers a glimpse into the parlor room of an early 20th century home in the valley. Filled with vintage furniture, books and “nick-nacks that pertain to that time period,” the room makes it easier to imagine what life was like in the valley 110 years ago.

“The centerpiece of the room is an upright piano that was built in the 1880s and shipped around the Cape from England,” Jones said.

Drawing from a collection of striking photographs by the late James Zeigler, the third exhibit creates a vivid portrait of ranching life in the valley during the 1940s and 1950s. Curated by Jeff Ohlson, the show includes images of locals riding horses, tending to livestock and enjoying the valley’s wide open spaces. “He was a well known photographer in these parts who spent a lot time on the ranches,” Jones said of Zeigler, who left behind more than 4,000 images and glass negatives that are now in the library’s collection.

The museum, which is open every Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and staffed by volunteers, is located at 77 Carmel Valley Road. Visit