The Los Altos History Museum's new permanent exhibition, "Making Connections: Stories from the Land," truly gets down to earth, focusing on how geography and the natural environment has shaped local history.
To fully engage visitors in its stories, the exhibition also draws on another, much more recent element that was transformative to this area: technology. "Making Connections" includes numerous interactive features such as video walls, touch screens and listening stations.
The new permanent exhibition opens to the public on Feb. 11 with a celebration that includes a ribbon cutting with local officials, activities and performances curated by Mosaic America highlighting the community's diversity.
The interactive exhibition not only looks at the many people who have lived on the land, as historical exhibitions typically do, but emphasizes the environment that made life possible here in the first place.
"Our intention in organizing the exhibition geographically is to underscore that we all share the same place, and it's our collective responsibility to make it a community," Dr. Elisabeth Ward, the museum's executive director and lead curator for the exhibition, said in a press release announcing the exhibition.
Divided into four sections — hills, valley, creek and town — the exhibition underscores the role that the land and its resources have played over time.
"The hills lured individuals, from indigenous dancers to modern-day thought leaders, who embraced living with nature. The creeks, the center of life for the Ohlone people, formed natural boundaries between ranches and towns and were later altered by people and events," according to the press release.
The "valley" section explores the rise of various industries, including cinnabar mining and agriculture, as well as the growth of tech, and the "town" section delves into how Los Altos slowly evolved from a small rural outpost.
Each section includes artifacts and timelines, plus the stories of people connected to that landscape.
"Making Connections" took more than two years to create, with teams of curators researching and developing each section.
"The permanent exhibition's presentation format is based on modern museum practices that emphasize storytelling and interactivity versus dry facts. The exhibit is a combination of artifacts, text, and interactive displays that together tell the story of our community. The new digital technology enables visitors to explore the content in much greater breadth and depth than would otherwise be possible in the museum space," said lead donor Edward Taft in a statement.
Also opening Feb. 11 is a retrospective that revisits more than 50 exhibits that have been on display since 2001, when the Los Altos History Museum opened its main building.
"Making Connections: Stories from the Land" opens Feb. 11 with a celebration that takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos. For more information, visit losaltoshistory.org.