From the Vault: West Coast Biennial

West Coast Biennial is BACK! This year marks the fourth Biennial at Turtle Bay Exploration Park. This art competition and exhibition is the brainchild of Mary and John Harper. Mary is our former Education Manager and John, a long time instructor at Shasta College, is a former Curator of Art at the Redding Museum of Art and History. They wanted to restart a tradition and oh boy did they!

2011 West Coast Biennial
2011 West Coast Biennial

The Redding Museum held an annual art competition and exhibition associated with the Art and Craft Faire for many years. The move to the new museum building in 2002 put that contest on hold until we could figure out a way to organize it in the new space. Mary formed The Friends of the Arts at Turtle Bay from the existing Arts Council and set about turning this dream into a reality. We had a small “logistics” run with the Find Your Walden in Redding photo contest in 2010.

2011 Best in Show – James Allison’s Cable Mechanics
2011 Best in Show – James Allison’s Cable Mechanics

The contest and exhibition are biennial, meaning they happen every other year. Artists must be from California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska and pieces must have been made in the previous three years and can’t have been previously shown at Turtle Bay. It is juried by a new outside juror each time. Past jurors include Santa Rosa-based artist, instructor, and curator Bob Nugent; the Crocker Museum’s Associate Director and Chief Curator, Scott Shields; the Portland Art Museum’s Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art, Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson; and this year’s juror Michael Duncan, an art critic and independent curator based in Los Angeles.

2013 Best in Show – Jim Gilmore with his piece Paoha
2013 Best in Show – Jim Gilmore with his piece Paoha

Jurors choose the entries that will be included in the exhibition from digital images. All of the artist information is withheld during this process to prevent prejudice. The juror then visits Turtle Bay and sees the chosen pieces in person to determine the prizewinners and to give a juror’s talk open to the public for free. Michael Duncan spoke on the Bay Area artist Bruce Conner. You can see a video of that talk here.

2011 Biennial
Biennial, seen here in 2011, offers guests a lot of diverse media. There really is something for everyone.

The exhibition always opens the night of Redding’s Cultural Cruise, a long-standing, free, city wide event that falls on the last Friday every January. West Coast Biennial usually brings in a larger than usual cruising crowd to Turtle Bay that night. About 375 people saw the 2017 Biennial on opening night. The following day, local artist Lura Wilhelm, who has a piece in the exhibition, gave a painting demonstration. Oh yeah, and we have a winner. Best in Show goes to Gina Herrera for her piece Rocking the Future. You will just have to come in and see it!

Are you an artist working in California, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska? Keep an eye out for the next contest announcement in August 2018!

2015 Biennial
2015 Best in Show Hansel and Gretel by Katherine Ace is on the right.
2015 Biennial
Every Biennial, seen here in 2015 is different. The combination of entries and outside jurors makes for a new experience each time.
2013 Biennial
The crowd awaits the announcement of the winners at the 2013 West Coast Biennial.

The Vault is Always Open!

Curatrix Julia



From the Vault: Staff Picks coming soon to the Museum!

Door to collections
What’s behind the heavily secured door? It’s a treasure trove of stories and information contained in objects, documents, and art.

What would you choose if you were given the opportunity to look through Turtle Bay’s Permanent Collection for an object to exhibit; a vintage coffee grinder or a hundred-year-old typewriter perhaps? Or are you more of a beaded evening bag sort of person? Would you choose something you already know or something you want to learn more about?

This is exactly what we asked the Turtle Bay staff to do for the next glass case exhibition in the main gallery. (We usually call this display space the “basket case” for a number of reasons.) Normally only the Collections and Exhibitions staff and volunteers access the Collections Facility, but we wanted to find out what would happen if everyone was given a chance to run wild (with gloves on – of course) among the museum’s 35,000 objects.

Once staff learned our not-so-secret-code, they can locate things on the shelves that they have found in the database.

Staff were given object handling training and some parameters. The object has to fit in the case, can’t have been exhibited in the past year, and can’t be a work of art – for reasons that will become clear next fall (cue evil Curatrix laugh). After ruling out these objects people were given the choice of doing a targeted search by using our database or to “go shopping” in the aisles, or any combination of the above.

Once an object is chosen, the staff member is given all of the information we have about it. From there, everyone was left to write about their choice in whatever style they want, from deep research to an essay about the choice itself, or both – as long as it fits on a single sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper in a readable font size. (See, I really am looking out for you.)

Behind the curtain
A place for everything. Staff got to pull back the curtains and open the boxes that house and protect our collection.

Some people have very specific reasons for their choice; say a passion for Disney or a special connection with another country. Others have had an appealing or intriguing object catch their eye. People have been coming over and searching in groups and it has been great way to get to know each other better. How else would we know that the Curator of Animal Programs and the Curator of Collections and Exhibits share a passion of old technology? You should see us in the typewriter section. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

So far the most common things we’ve heard are “Wow, there’s so much stuff!” and (my favorite) “It’s so organized!” If it weren’t, we’d never find anything!

I am really looking forward to seeing how this comes together and to seeing how all of you react to it. Do you think you can predict what our Guest Services team or the Retail Manager chose? What about the Creative Services Officer or our animal trainers? What does the Horticulture Manager have in common with one of our baristas? You’ll just have to come see us January 27 for the Cultural Cruise to find out. Can’t make the Cruise? The Staff Picks exhibition will be up until April 30, 2017.


The Vault is Always Open!


Curatrix Julia (It’s official now – I have my Snoopy Plate.)


From the Vault: This Place Matters

Postcard of Downtown Redding in the 1960s.

November 15 was the kick off meeting for the This Place Matters coalition in Redding. Turtle Bay was in attendance and we decided this was the perfect time to launch a new program we have been thinking about for a while. People love maps and aerial and historic photos. We are often asked questions about buildings, businesses, and neighborhoods. Sometimes we know the answer and sometimes we don’t.

Former Shasta High
Part of the Westside in 1936. The former Shasta High School – now Learning Center – is in the center. Unknown photographer.

We have photos of homes that no longer exist, of whole blocks that have been forever altered by redevelopment, and of neighborhoods that bear witness to a developer’s dream realized. Old, new, or somewhere in between, these are the places we live. The places we love. It’s time to put all this information together for easy public access.

Like our Famous Families project, this will be an on-going, additive endeavor. Working with the Shasta Historical Society, the City of Redding Planning Department, and YOU we want to discover and share the stories of the neighborhoods of Redding and the surrounding area. We hope this will grow to encompass other local communities.

Across town
Looking northeast across town. Probably taken in the teens. Note the Lorenz Hotel in the just above and to the right of center. Photo by Chester Mullen.

When we talk about local history, we tend to focus on the oldest possible stuff, which is great, but we don’t want to ignore more recent history. It doesn’t have to be “antique” to be interesting.

Do you have a neighborhood story? We want to hear it! Do you have neighborhood photos to share? We want to borrow them! We will scan your images, give you back your originals with a digital copy, and credit you whenever we use them. Let us know via email:

New subdivision
A new subdivision! Note the flooded conditions. This was probably during the flood of 1940. Shasta Dam made a lot of new neighborhoods, like Lake Redding and the Garden Tract, possible by preventing regular flooding.
Temple Hotel
Tearing down the Temple Hotel for redevelopment. Unknown photographer.


The Vault is always open!

Curatrix Julia

North State Giving Tuesday is almost here!

Did you know we must raise over $1,000,000 each year to keep Turtle Bay operating? We rely on the generosity of our community to keep the Park serving as a safe, educational gathering place for all families in our community. If we charged admission that covered our expenses (without fundraising) admission would be about $40 a person – and that simply won’t do!

So we fundraise! This time of year, we send out holiday mailers. The past few years, we have raised about $10,000 for the park through generous people who mail back checks. These unrestricted funds help us with everything from keeping the lights on to booking exhibitions to feeding the animals!

Redding Bank of CommerceAlso, for the 2nd year, we are participating in the Shasta Regional Community Foundation’s North State Giving Tuesday. We hope whether you love the exhibitions, cultural and science educational programming, animals, gardens or trails, you’ll include Turtle Bay in your selected charities through

United WayNSGT is the best time to support Turtle Bay as Shasta Regional Community Foundation is offering a variety of incentives to deepen the impact of your gift! Shout outs to Redding Bank of Commerce and United Way of Northern California for making these possible!

Donate online on Nov. 29 from 6 am – 6 pm

In appreciation for your donation of $20+ online to Turtle Bay on Giving Tuesday, we have some pretty amazing incentives:

  • Automatic entry into a raffle to win a 1-hour Family Photo Shoot + digital photos by Heather Armstrong Photography in Wildlife Woods with an Animal Ambassador!

A limited-edition Turtle Bay Wonder-Full foil temporary tattoo – the perfect little stocking stuffer! temporary tattoos

  • PLUS, if we hit our goal of $12,000, our President & CEO Mike Warren will be dunked in the dunk tank aka Visible River Aquarium! Watch on Facebook Live or at the Park on Wednesday, Nov. 30 @ 3:30 pm.

Need some motivation? Check out our Facebook page for kids speaking out on why they think the Park is Wonder-Full! We’re looking for more folk to join in on the fun too. Simply capture your friends & family on camera saying why you think the park is Wonder-Full, then upload to our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages with #whyitswonderfull so we can repost!


Thank you to all our members and donors!!



From the Vault: Digging into the Past and Mining the Future for new Exhibitions

While we are known for bringing in exhibitions such as Titanic: The Exhibition, A T-rex Named Sue, and Art of the Brick, or the upcoming Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids from the American Museum of Natural History, much of what we do focuses on our region and happens in collaboration with local organizations and people.

Hauling Hay
Photo by Chester Mullen

Right now, we are creating Rooted in this Land: Growing Food in Shasta County. This exhibition bubbled to the surface while we were discussing Shasta County’s first post-European-contact industries. Trappers came through the area, but they did not settle and start communities. The mining and timber industries were both vitally important to our early and on-going local economy, but they did not come first. That honor goes to ranching and farming.

Euro-American settlers, such as Shasta County’s first non-native resident, P.B. Reading, came here to settle on the land and to use that land to produce food. The property the Museum sits on was part of Reading’s original land grant.

This land use was at odds with the Native American tribes who already lived here and it has permanently altered the landscape and environment in unanticipated ways. It has also provided food to millions and livelihoods to many thousands of people, some of them in multi-generational family businesses.

Drying Prunes
Photo by Chester Mullen

From historic cattle drives to modern Internet auctions and from sun-dried prunes and walnuts to organic wild rice and strawberries, things have changed over the years, but agriculture is still a big business in our region and it is part of our culture. So help us celebrate it!

Farm Equipment for Sale
Photo by Chester Mullen

The exhibition will run from January 21 – April 30, 2017. If you have an idea or a local story you want to share or equipment to display, please email me ( or give us a call at 530-242-3191. The sooner the better!


The Vault is Always Open!

The Curatrix

Grazing Cattle
Photo by Chester Mullen


The new exhibition Adventures in Pre-Columbian Archaeology: My good fortune and personal glory.

The famed, yet fictitious, archaeologist Indiana Jones once said to his sidekick, Short Round, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory,” which somehow encapsulated, however incorrectly, the impression of what archaeology was all about. In real life, archaeology and museum work may not lead to fortune and glory in the conventional sense, but they might be somewhat attainable depending on how you define them. For me, fortune is the opportunity to work with the wonderful Turtle Bay museum collection and glory is a completed exhibition.

If you visited the museum in September, you might have noticed these mysterious curtains. What secrets are they hiding?
If you visited the museum in September, you might have noticed these mysterious curtains.
What secrets are they hiding?

When I entered a master’s degree program in museum studies, my family was baffled. They would ask with befuddlement or even cynicism at holiday gatherings or family dinners what exactly I would do with something so esoteric. It was a hard question to answer as there are so many possibilities! If you were to visit my first exhibition at the Turtle Bay Museum, Adventures in Pre-Columbian Archaeology, you would see the answer to that question firsthand. This blog post might help offer a little background too.

Each piece of art and every artifact are carefully catalogued in a searchable database and stored in a precise location in environmentally controlled storage – all crucial for good stewardship of these precious objects.

These priceless artifacts live in a special box made just for them! They have their own house (box) with their own address (box number, shelf number, row number)!
These priceless artifacts live in a special box made just for them! They have their own house (box) with their own address (box number, shelf number, row number)!

In a sense, museums are like libraries for these pieces. They are retained and protected for the enjoyment of the public – you! Then, instead of checking them out and taking them home, the museum puts them on display in interesting ways for your enjoyment and education.

One of my favorite pieces from the exhibition – a stirrup spout vessel representing Naylamp. Naylamp was the mythological “first ruler” of the Sicán culture who sailed from the south on balsa rafts and colonized many valleys in the region of what is today Peru. When he died, he sprouted wings and flew away to another world.
One of my favorite pieces from the exhibition – a stirrup spout vessel representing Naylamp. Naylamp was the mythological “first ruler” of the Sicán culture who sailed from the south on balsa rafts and colonized many valleys in the region of what is today Peru. When he died, he sprouted wings and flew away to another world.

Throughout the process of selecting the most intriguing art and artifacts best representing the theme and storyline, copious research is done to ensure the information presented is accurate and engaging. However, only a small percentage of all the research and writing makes it into the exhibition, as space is limited and reader interest is circumstantial and unpredictable.

All the objects are staged in a convenient location prior to arranging them in the exhibition.
All the objects are staged in a convenient location prior to arranging them in the exhibition.

Arranging the artifacts presents a delicate balance between aesthetics and practicality while still adhering to the storyline. Their placement should look good, make sense, and above all maintain safety for the object. The purpose of the exhibition is to tell an interesting story in a three dimensional space while allowing public access to the objects. Access in this sense means the guest can view the artifact and read a little something about it, hopefully to learn something new or entertaining.

Arranging Mezcala objects on their shelf.
Arranging Mezcala objects on their shelf.
Arranging shelves by culture and geography.
Arranging shelves by culture and geography.

Although at times the process can be terrifying, offering sleepless nights, late hours, and questioned sanity as you wonder how your pet project will be received; creating an exhibition is genuinely enjoyable and absolutely satisfying. Adventures in Pre-Columbian Archaeology was a great first project in my newly acquired role in the exhibitions department at the Turtle Bay Museum. It allowed me the opportunity to become acquainted with the museum’s collection, which is eclectic, invaluable, and far-reaching, as well as to gain an understanding of the process, operations, and techniques unique to this institution. Plus, the Pre-Columbian artifacts in our collection are just really, really cool!

The almost-finished-product. Come to the Museum for a closer look!
The almost-finished-product. Come to the Museum for a closer look!


Amanda Kramp

From The Vault: Campaigns & Elections!

Things are heating up on the campaign trail as candidates go head to head in anticipation of the national, state, and local November elections. In this age of TV ads, instant news, social media, web sites, and the ability to contribute electronically to the candidate of your choice, we take a step back to remember other means of campaigning. Some of these, like the handy lapel pin or poster, have not changed over the years. Others, such as campaign cards, seem a little less familiar. The ballot bag is a tried and true method of getting the votes back to be counted.

Take a break from the digital onslaught and enjoy some of the campaign and election artifacts from Turtle Bay’s collection. (And no, it did not escape my notice that you are on our website reading this blog electronically!)

Campaign Cards


Campaign Buttons

Candidate shirtNothing shows support like wearing a t-shirt for your candidate.

2000.2.3 Gift of Lupe & Carl Arness






Yard signs

Posters and yard signs are also popular. This was from the 1988 special election to save the Shasta County Library. It worked!

1989.26.1 Gift of Howard & Marion Adams




4Campaigns are not without controversy. Jesse Carter didn’t have a website, he had a typewriter. ­­

1992.7.7 Gift of Clay McClain





Ballot Bag

Ballot Bag

Ballot bags from local elections. Clearly those cards worked and W. O. Blodgett won an election for County Clerk at least once!

SHS1982.18.2 & 3 Gifts of Virginal Dare Hammans


The Vault is Always Open!


Curatrix Julia