Take a walk back in time at the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum

Take a walk back in time at the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum

PETALUMA, California — The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum preserves local history, but also creates a place for the community.

“This space has welcomed visitors of all backgrounds for over 120 years,” said Executive Director Stacey Atchley. “And we want to continue to be a vibrant civic center for Petaluma, out-of-town visitors, everyone is welcome here.”

Originally the city library and funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the museum is housed in an impressive neoclassical building designed by architect Brainerd Jones.

“The columns, the pediment, the steps leading up to the building really create a sense of importance and that there’s something special inside,” Atchley explains. “But what I love about it is that it then opens up to this very warm interior.”

The building served as a library for decades until the 1970s, when the community outgrew the building.

“A group of community leaders stepped up and because of them, this beautiful space has been preserved as the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum,” Atchley said.

Permanent exhibitions provide insight into the daily life of the residents and highlight the town’s early, flourishing industries, such as the historic production of butter and eggs.

“Petaluma became known as the ‘egg basket of the world,’” Atchley says.

Other exhibitions highlight the city’s not-so-distant past.

“We also want to look at more contemporary history in this museum,” Atchley says. “American Graffiti is one of those movies that people associate with Petaluma.”

A permanent exhibition offers a glimpse of photographs, production pieces and artifacts from the film. The museum also prides itself on hosting changing temporary exhibitions.

“For example, ‘Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women,'” Atchley says. “We don’t often hear the words of these women themselves, and so through photographs and excerpts from their journals and letters…we can help share what life was like on those journeys.”

For Atchley, looking ahead is always part of the past.

“We promote cultural diversity and discussion of different ideas. We can use our collections to tell stories about the past,” Atchley says. “I think it’s important to talk about the past and learn what happened so we can make better choices as a community in the future.”

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