Tuolumne County Museum

Map to Museum

By 1960, the Tuolumne County jail, built in 1866, was obsolete and a new jail was constructed one block north.  At the time, the Tuolumne County Museum and History Collection was located in the Veterans Memorial Hall on Washington Street in downtown Sonora.  Carlo De Ferrari, County Clerk, was assigned the administrative responsibility of the museum after the retirement of Ruth Ann Newport.  The Board of Directors, of the newly formed Tuolumne County Historical Society, discussed the need for expanding exhibit and storage space.  At the request of the Society, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors designated the old jail as the Tuolumne County Museum and the Society became stewards of the Tuolumne County History Collection.

 “Board committees were busy with planning for the conversion of the jail to a museum, and looking forward to the day when a library and research center could be added….Remodeling was under way by January 1962 and finally completed in 1965….Next came the cases, ten of which were ready in November 1967, and exhibits were installed in the former jailor’s quarters.”    Chispa, Vol. 25, No. 4, April-June, 1986

In 1974, the Museum Board of Governors was organized to provide continuity on museum issues.  A Master Plan was developed for the site and the exhibits; Phase 1 called for construction of a new building north of the museum for storage and library use, Phase 2 called for rehabilitation of the museum building, and Phase 3 provided a plan to convert the prisoner’s exercise yard into a patio for public use.

The old kitchen of the sheriff or jailer’s family was converted into a turn-of-the-century office, which was originally occupied by the Chamber of Commerce and now home to the Tuolumne County Genealogical Society.  Reproductions of many old photos, antiques and costumed mannequins are on exhibit depicting the six geographical regions of the county, “Our Towns” – Sonora, Crossroads of Tuolumne County; North to Columbia; Jamestown and the Way West; South of the River; Out to Tuolumne and Up in the Hills.  Other displays contain information on the overland trails across the Sierra Nevada between 1841 and 1860 and pioneer firearms.



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