USF's Museum Blog

Transforming California State Parks

Julia Pfeifer Burns State Park on the Central Coast is one of the state's most spectacular sites.

Julia Pfeifer Burns State Park on the Central Coast is one of the state’s most spectacular sites.

With its vast holdings of sweeping oceanfront property, granite mountaintops and some of the world’s largest trees, California State Parks is the state’s largest landowner, charged with preserving world-class natural and cultural resources. Yet, a recent report commissioned by the agency notes that these irreplaceable resources are increasingly challenged by “stressors such as wildfire, drought and coastal flooding, all of which will be exacerbated by climate change.”

Fort Ross on the California Coast

Fort Ross on the California Coast

Likewise the Agency’s precious cultural resources — from Hearst Castle to the California State Railroad Museum and California State Indian Museum — are severely challenged by a lack of resources and a need for expertise to help catalog, preserve and interpret a diverse array of unique holding. Few people know that the state possesses and cares for a formidable collection including a 9,000 year old California Indian stone tool from the Sonoma coast; indigenous basketry from up and down the state; Gold Rush-era daguerrotypes and stage coaches and even watercolors of rare botanical specimens. “Absent a significant re-investment in natural and cultural resources management,” the report asserts “the Department will fall short of protecting California’s most valued natural and cultural resources for future generations.”

Hearst Castle is one of the most visited sites in California

Hearst Castle is one of the most visited sites in California

Hence: the California State Parks Transformation Team, charged with advising the state on the needs and strategies to advance the mission of the California State Park system. University of San Francisco Museum Studies faculty Stephanie Brown and Marjorie Schwarzer are proud to be part of this exclusive team, with the hope that USF Museum Studies students will also be tapped to participate in these important statewide efforts.

A few of the members of the Transformation Team

A few of the members of the Transformation Team

Also participating are faculty from Sonoma State University and UC Santa Barbara as well as leaders from California’s Native American communities, Yosemite National Park, California Association of Museums, and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

baskets2Together, the team has been meeting quarterly at the Statewide Collections Center, tucked away in an industrial part of Sacramento, to share expertise and offer ideas. One project that has already emerged from this group’s work was a partnership between UC Merced and Bodie State Park to train students in how to use drone technology to record and map decaying buildings so they can be better understood and preserved.

Two California Indian cradle boards and a Gold Rush era wagon on display at the Collections Resource Center in Sacramento

Two California Indian cradle boards and a Gold Rush era wagon on display at the Collections Resource Center in Sacramento

We are seeking more ideas and input as to how USF can become part of this important preservation effort in our state, and are planning an alumni and student visit for Fall 2016. We look forward to our students’ input and ideas.

th-2For more information on University of San Francisco’s museum studies program, click here.

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