From the Vault: Water, water everywhere!

California residents know that when it comes to precipitation, it is often a matter of feast or famine. Currently, Redding is experiencing the feast after a relatively dry spell. We wanted the drought to end but not, you know, all at once! At 79,000 cubic feet per second, releases from Keswick Dam are the highest they have been since the El Niño/La Niña cycle of 1997-98. Heavy rains have flooded valley towns and aging infrastructure is threatened. We are, however, lucky this isn’t 1862. In that year flooding was terrible. A United States Geological Survey paper confirms newspaper accounts that the Sacramento Valley was a 350-mile long, 20-30-mile wide lake!

Here at Turtle Bay, we are perfectly poised to watch the Sacramento River as it rises and falls with each controlled change in the release level and with every rainstorm. The plaza under the Sundial Bridge is underwater, but that has happened a few times since it was completed in 2004.

March 21, 2011
February 13, 2017. The sign you can see in the 2011 photo is completely under water in the 2017 image.

The Turtle Pond on the trail on the north side of river is currently part of the river and last week the river began flowing over the south trail for the first time since it was paved, filling the wetlands behind the museum.

The South Trail was impassable on February 14, 2017

Before Shasta Dam, this area flooded regularly. One of the dam’s primary purposes is to control those floods. The flood of 1906 washed out the old Freebridge, south of the current Cypress Street Bridge. It was rebuilt and then damaged again the following year. Floods in 1909 and 1913 affected the roads and rail lines. High river flows in 1915 threatened to take out the Diestelhorst Bridge while it was under construction.

Looking upstream in 1913.
The Diestelhorst in February of 1915.
Rail line washout. This happened more than once before the dam was built.

While Shasta Dam was being built, Redding experienced its last major flood, the devastating Flood of 1940. On February 28, 1940 the city was cut off by the floodwaters. The storms that month caused the river to peak at more than 185,000 cubic feet per second at the dam site. In his 1997 article for the Covered Wagon, engineer Clair Hill cites a 189,000 cfs maximum flow. Hill also noted that he remembers driving south to Sacramento through water two feet deep on Highway 99. On February 29, 1940, the Oakland Tribune reported that the river was up to six miles wide in some places near Redding. I have heard anecdotal reports that the water crossed the buffer of floodplain farmland and reached the downtown Safeway on Cypress and Market streets.

gravel plant
A rare color slide of the gravel plant at Turtle Bay during the Flood of ‘40
Redding neighborhood
A color slide of a Redding neighborhood during the Flood of ‘40

The east abutment of the old Free Bridge washed away, the abutments of North Market Street Bridge were damaged, and both ends of the Diestelhorst Bridge were under water, effectively cutting off vehicle traffic both north and east. The new rail trestle over the river was badly damaged as well.

In a 1994 Covered Wagon article, John Fitzpatrick recounts pushing a “borrowed” flat car of dairy products north across the trestle to replenish communities, such as Buckeye, that were completely cut off from the food supply. Sadly, that car was also used to ferry back the body of 19-year-old Irene Clement who had drowned in Salt Creek as the result of a car accident. Fitzpatrick reports that on the return trip, the trestle began to buckle as one of the supports gave way. They abandoned the flat car and carried Irene back to Redding.

The Diestelhorst Auto Camp was destroyed in the Flood of ’40.

As we know from this February, Shasta Dam only controls river flooding; it does not prevent it entirely. Nor does it prevent downstream flooding from heavy rains or localized flash flooding. River flooding severe enough to make news across the state has occurred many times since 1940. For example, the San Bernardino County Sun reported a 70,000 cfs release in January of 1953 that flooded homes, ruined a new dance hall, and flooded the Riverview golf course. In February of 1970, the Red Bluff Daily News announced that 14 northern counties, including Shasta, were to receive Federal Disaster Relief funds as a result of heavy flooding. The El Niño of 1983 brought February flash floods and high releases, as reported in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

What’s the moral of this story? Pay attention to the weather because Mother Nature bats cleanup and chin up, it could be 1862!

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

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


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

From the Vault: Commissioning Artwork for the Hotel Lobby

As most of the people reading the Turtle Bay blogs are already aware, we are currently building the Sheraton Redding at Sundial Bridge. During this process we have received a lot of calls from artists and artisans who wanted us to use their artwork or products in the hotel. This was not, however, Turtle Bay’s deci­­sion to make. A team of interior designers working within the Sheraton brand framework made all of those selections.

Turtle Bay was given the opportunity to guide the process of commissioning a signature piece of art for the hotel lobby–a task we were very happy to take on. I am very pleased to announce that an artist has been selected and is already hard at work on the project.

Sheraton Redding at the Sundial Bridge
The Sheraton Redding at Sundial Bridge front entrance. Imagine walking though the lobby doors and looking to the left.

People have asked me how we arrived at our choice. Like all public art commissions, it was a process. The first thing we did was put together a committee of Turtle Bay staff and community partners with expertise in public art and interior design. Our Creative Services Officer, Miki’ala Catalfano, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Cristy Kidd, and I (your fearless Curatrix) were joined by Debra Lucero, Director of the Shasta and Butte County Art Councils, John Harper, artist and Shasta College art instructor, and Eve Berg Pugh, artist and interior designer.

We knew we wanted a unique piece that represented our location and the Turtle Bay mission and vision, as well as design ethos of Starwood, Sheraton’s parent company. We also wanted the piece to be visually pleasing and accessible to hotel guests of every background and not to clash with its surroundings (as there is plenty of room for challenging and provocative art in the museum’s art gallery). But we also did not want something that was simply part of the décor. It had to be inspiring.

Lobby floor plan. The artwork will hang on the wall on the left side where the grouping of four chairs is shown.

The committee reviewed the lobby floor plans and 3D renderings in order to familiarize ourselves with the space. Then we took a close look at the interior design choices, including the artwork that had already been chosen for the rest of the lobby and the other public spaces. This gave us a framework for our vision.

We began looking at images of large-scale pieces in the types of media we thought would work for the space. Pintrest was a useful tool for sharing ideas with the committee and other interested parties.

We knew we wanted the artist to have a Northern California connection. After we agreed on the type of feeling we were trying to achieve, John and Debra began showing us works from specific artists and we started to narrow down the field. They made a lot of calls and sent a lot of emails soliciting interest from the artists we thought would fit the project.

3D Rendering
Looking in through the lobby doors into the 3D walk-though of the hotel. The wall is on the left. It is about 12’ x 14’.

Once we had a pool of artists who thought they might like to work on the project, we took a closer look at their work and their availability, as well as their fees. Unfortunately, the budget for the piece is not unlimited. We selected four artists, two working alone and one wife and husband team, to submit proposals for the commission.

The artists, who all have strong Northern California connections, were Frank LaPena, Lucinda and Dan Kasser, and Bob Nugent. We hosted a group meeting where we discussed the project in depth, toured the site of the then un-built lobby, and had a spirited lunch at the Thai Cafe. After this face-to-face meeting we knew we had an amazing and diverse group from which to make our selection, and that the final choice would not be an easy one. The artists joked that they were going to get together and make a single proposal.

Armed with the hotel plans and style guides from Starwood, the artists went back to their studios to come up with their proposals. In May, we regrouped and the artists submitted their proposals to the committee and a representative from Azul, the company that will be managing the hotel for Turtle Bay. Azul works directly with Starwood, which had the ultimate decision-making power based upon the committee’s recommendations.

After this intense process, Starwood chose Bob Nugent to create the signature piece for the hotel lobby. Bob has an extensive background in public art, including hotels, and we are very excited to see what he comes up with.

Bob Nugent's art
An 11” x 11” sample representing the type of piece Bob Nugent is proposing for the lobby. The finished product will almost certainly not look exactly like this, but it evokes the mood.

They might not have received this commission, but we are already making plans to work with Frank LaPena, who had a solo show in out Art Gallery in 2003, and the Kassers on future projects in and around the museum.

Julia Pennington Cronin

Curator of Collections & Exhibits

Follow me on Twitter @CuratrixJulia