Museum Collections

The Main Museum located in the former County Hall of Records located at the corners of 6th & ‘H’ Streets in Crescent City features many items of historical interest. The Main Museum also served as the County Jail from the time it was built in 1926 until 1963. Several jail cells remain upstairs and have become display rooms for various collections. Resident ghosts are said to still haunt the upstairs area.

Perhaps the Main Museum is best known for one of the finest collections of Native American basketry by the Tolowa and Yurok Indians, and many other Native American artifacts. Other items donated by the families of early settlers include pioneer tools, weapons, farming, and mining equipment. Beautiful furniture, clothing fashions, needlework and China over a hundred years old are on display.

Various rooms within the museum feature display noting the changes in both the arts and industry throughout the years. A miniature collection of all of the railroad steam engines and cars to have once served Del Norte County can be found.

The County’s most complete collection of photographs of destruction and personal stories of the infamous Tsunami Disaster of 1964 are on site. A series of tidal waves wiped out a large portion of Crescent City and caused several deaths as a result of the tremendous earthquake that took place near Anchorage, Alaska.

Hundreds of historical photographs of early pioneer settlements, forestry and mining operations are on display. Thousands of archived photos and documents can be found in our Research Room.

The Bolen Annex in the Main Museum features the magnificent First Order Fresnel Lens from the Saint George Reef Lighthouse. This is perhaps the most valuable single artifact in the Museum and one of the few original working First Order Fresnel Lens utilized by the former U.S. Lighthouse Service in the country. Other artifacts on display include recently recovered artifacts from the Brother Jonathan shipwreck in 1865, California’s worst maritime disaster. Historical maritime items of interest can be found throughout the Main Museum as well as at Battery Point Lighthouse.

No cameras or photographs are allowed inside the Main Museum.

Highlights of the Del Norte County Museum

The Tolowa/Yurok room features our collection of local Native American artifacts, including one of the finest collections of baskets in Northern California. Its photo carousel comprises an evocative and informative history of the native people of the area throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. All photos have been donated by local families. There is also a room housing artifacts from other Native American tribes from all over the United States.

Photos of the devastation of the 1964 tsunami disaster are shown at the Museum. In the early morning hours of March 28, 1964, a series of five tsunami waves generated by a strong earthquake at Prince William Sound in Alaska, struck Crescent City killing 11 people, injuring 24, and destroying 29 city blocks. The devastation caused 7 to 15 million dollars damage and became the worst tsunami damage along this country’s West Coast in recorded history.

Our past contains the gifts and guidance of our forefathers; their labors sustain us, their tribulations protect us, and their joys give us hope for a better tomorrow.

Through natural disaster, the passage of time, and the frailty of human life, the voices of our ancestors are being silenced.

To restore those voices and protect our legacy, the purpose of the society shall be to discover, collect, and preserve the documents, structures, artifacts and ideas pertaining to Del Norte County, and to provide suitable museums or homes for such items in order to maintain them as public educational resources.

The Del Norte County Historical Society is committed to making the story of our past part of our community’s present and future.