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America on the Move
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Creating an 1890s Orchard in a Museum

As we began to choose stories for America on the Move, we knew we wanted to show the ways that railroad lines helped fuel changes in communities. In our two opening vignettes, we examine the changes the railroad brought to the towns of Watsonville and Santa Cruz, California, which were connected by rail in the 1870s. We chose Santa Cruz because we have the Jupiter locomotive from the Santa Cruz Railroad. But we also wanted to show what happened at the other end of the line, in the small but bustling farming region in the Pajaro Valley, near Watsonville. We didn’t have any objects from the region when we started thinking about the setting. So, after research and deliberation, we decided to re-create a part of a young orchard in the Pajaro Valley in 1895.

This tour takes you behind the scenes and into the research challenges of re-creating a 19th-century field.

Museums traditionally use historical artifacts to tell stories. But what do you do when you have a story to tell with no obvious way of displaying it through objects? There are many different ways to answer this question, but we chose to display historical images and some small artifacts in the context of the orchard scene.

“The Unique Map of California,” by E. McD. Johnston, 1888
“The Unique Map of California,” by E. McD. Johnston, 1888
Closeup of coast and Santa Cruz region
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