The renovation is complete, and Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park has a fabulous new exhibit in the Visitors’ Center. The old exhibits from the 1970s are gone, replaced by handsome new display cabinets, gleaming signage, and engaging audio-visual presentations. To see for yourself, visit Bidwell Mansion SHP any Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Tours of the Mansion are $6, but the Visitor’s Center is free.
The new exhibit has been some two years in the planning, and for several months the space has been off-limits while the installation progressed. Among the artifacts, old favorites (Annie’s wedding shoes, the enormous Maidu basket) are back, and previously unseen items (many more beautiful baskets, Annie’s blue shoulder cape) have been brought to light.
John and Annie have been brought to life through audio-visual displays. Viewers can follow Bidwell’s 1841 journey across the continent and listen to his journal entries about significant sights along the way. They can also listen to the Bidwells courtship as John and Annie exchange love letters, thanks to the voice talents of Nick Anderson and Jenise Coon.
The star of the exhibit is a walking, talking John Bidwell (Nick again) who tells of his discovery of Rancho Chico and the growth of the ranch. Numerous antique photographs are projected to show the beauties of northern California and the placement of buildings on Rancho Chico.
Another feature of this new installation is a display cabinet that can be used for changing exhibits by State Parks staff. Currently it contains a display of Victorian ladies’ accessories: fans, gloves, purses, lace collars, handkerchiefs, stockings, and even a silk garter belt. I don’t have room here to give you a close-up view of each of the enchanting items in the case. And every time you visit Bidwell Mansion SHP, there could be something new to enjoy in that particular space.
So come and see and listen and enjoy. The new exhibit brings John and Annie and Rancho Chico to life!