CALTRANS DISTRICT 7 MUSEUM OPENS WITH ITS FIRST EXHIBIT
Environmentally speaking, it’s time for serious history, artifacts and archives.
At Caltrans, it’s common knowledge that most projects usually start out in Environmental Planning. So it would not be unusual that the first official District 7 Museum exhibit features this division.
What is interesting, though, is that Caltrans District 7 has three Architectural Historians -- people who love museums and collecting and displaying objects that have historic, scientific and artistic value. Some of this fascinating information is not typically found in history books.
Architectural history is the study of the built environment. This discipline attempts to understand the past through the perspective of buildings, structures and objects either singly or in a group and seeks to explain how culture, economic and demography, technology, politics and artistic expression in the past are reflected in the built environment.
According to Ron Kosinski, Deputy District Director for Environmental Planning, “Architectural historians working with Caltrans encounter a wide variety of built environments feature such as irrigation systems, landscapes, industrial complexes, ranches, free standing commercial signs, transportation systems and sites where major historic events took place.”
Jim Hammer, Deputy District Director for Administration, called upon Terrie Monaghan, Business Management, to find, dig up and organize a museum committee. “Find and dig?” Sounds like a job for archeologists and Environmental Planning. Luckily for Monaghan, those who showed up at the first meeting were Architectural Historians: Noah Stewart, Kelly Ewing-Toledo and Claudia Harbert.
Last September, these three people - who were up to the task - showed up for one meeting called by Hammer to get the Museum going, a plan since the District 7 Building opened in 2004. Within three months, Stewart, Harbert and Ewing-Toledo, united, planned, organized and executed an exhibit.
“Noah, Claudia and Kelly are passionate about their work,” says Gary Iverson, Office Chief, and Senior Archaeologist, Native American Coordinator and Historic Resource Coordinator in the District 7 Environmental Planning Division. “They saw the open space (in the museum area) and that’s how Environmental Planning was the first to create and sponsor an exhibit. Most everything at Caltrans begins in Environmental Planning, so it was a perfect fit.”
Like everyone at Caltrans, they didn’t stop until the project was done.
The three started with the concept of Stewardship; one of Caltrans goals. Through stewardship, they wanted their presentation to show how Caltrans preserves and enhances California’s resources and assets. Department of Environmental Planning (DEP) is one group that works to ensure that the Department meets its commitment to stewardship. DEP is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of over 50 individuals including specialists in many areas such as environmental analysis, geographic information systems, biology, archeology, architectural history and social community impact assessment.
“What makes this exhibit unique,” says Hammer, “is that it tells the Caltrans story and it is an exhibit for the entire district. We’re hoping that another division follows this example and takes up the challenge to create the next exhibit.”
The exhibit begins with the explanation of the laws that govern environmental planning such as the Endangered Species Act of 1966, the National Environmental Policy Act and ends with its final product to the public and the reason why this is all done: the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The EIR is Caltrans public outreach tool that demonstrates the potential obstacles and benefits of a project.
In between are displays of artifacts found at the Llano del Rio Socialist Utopian Colony in 1914-1918 (Pearblossom Highway Construction Project, State Route 138) and those found during the excavation of the District 7 Building that includes Chinese pottery and pharmaceutical bottles. The narration board reads: “These items were unearthed and preserved in order to understand the lives of the people who left them.”
To become involved in the District 7 Museum Committee or to develop an exhibit, contact Terrie Monaghan at 213-897-0752.