“A museum is a place where one should lose one’s head.” – Renzo Piano
In the “Night at the Museum” movies, dinosaur bones, statues, and dioramas come to life at night. As far as we know, the same thing is not happening at our local Delta museums, but with a little imagination, you can operate a sidedraft clamshell dredge to build Delta levees, play Pai Gow in a turn of the 20th century gambling house, and travel as a drop of water from the top of Mount Diablo to nearby rivers and sloughs.
There are a variety of museums throughout the Delta that tell the story of the region and Northern California and showcase art from throughout the world.
The Haggin Museum contains art and historical collections in a beautiful brick Neoclassical building, built in 1931 in Victory Park. The museum is home to some notable paintings, including works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Gauguin, the French masters associated with the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, respectively; Albert Bierstadt, known for his Rocky Mountain and Sierra Nevada landscapes; and J.C. Leyendecker, one of the most famous and successful commercial painters of the early 20th Century.
As well as fine art, the Haggin collections also boast some surprisingly fascinating items, including a large steamer trunk made famous by Emma LeDoux, the first woman in California to be sentenced to death. In March 1906, Emma purchased the trunk and arranged for it to be shipped to San Francisco on the afternoon train out of Stockton. When it failed to leave the station, authorities opened it to find her lifeless third husband – Emma having married Number 4 a year earlier and the wealthy, youthful Number 2 dead since 1902 under highly suspicious circumstances. Only the 1906 San Francisco earthquake knocked the case off the front pages of Stockton newspapers. The trunk, with contents suitably disposed of, was featured on the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum in 2012.
Other interesting (if less morbid) exhibits at the Haggin chronicle Stockton’s significant manufacturing legacy, including the workshop of Benjamin Holt, founder of Caterpillar, and a 26-foot boat built in 1927 by Stephen Bros. Boat Builders. You can walk through a turn-of-the-century California town, complete with a schoolroom, Chinese herb shop, general store, blacksmith shop, and saloon, and peek into the life of a pioneer ranching family in the 1890s. The Haggin Museum also hosts special events throughout the year and serves as a valuable resource for researchers.