San Mateo County Museum Receives High Praise | Local News


Adding a shed to the San Mateo County History Museum has gone on for years, leaving one of the country’s top horse-drawn carriage experts in awe of the county’s collection and the level of care given to it.

“After decades of examining collections in the United States and Canada, I have not seen in any other institution the commitment and professional level of care and interest in a collection like I have with that of the San Mateo County, ”Merri Ferrell, an internationally renowned cart curator, said.

Early in her career, Ferrell working in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, where she obtained her masters degree, she became interested in horse drawn carriages. But soon after starting her work in historic homes, she learned that much of the history behind the century-old transportation industry was unknown.

With this achievement, Ferrell set out to conduct his own research, traveling to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, to sift through documents stored in the museum’s Transportation Division.

His research enabled him to create standards of care for historic pieces, often still abused to this day, and earned him international recognition. Ferrell then spent 20 years as a curator at the Carriage Museum in Stony Brook, New York, overseeing a collection of 260 horse-drawn vehicles. Today, Ferrell is the property manager for Daugh Corporation and Sandpiper Farm in Northport, New York.

But before his move to New York City decades ago, Ferrell was offered the opportunity to work with the Oakland Museum and a collection of cars belonging to the Filoli Estate, which are now in the possession of the San Mateo County Historical. Association.

Having been hired as a consultant for the San Mateo County Historical Association’s Horse drawn carriage exhibit, Ferrell has now had the opportunity to see the collection for herself.

“It’s interesting to see the collection, to do the math, decades later and the opportunity to see it in good hands with an association that is truly committed to protecting and preserving the collection,” Ferrell said.

County car collection

The county has long been a collector of various cars and vehicles, many of which were donated by Lurline Matson Roth, the former owner of the Filoli estate. His cars and others collected from personalities or historic local estates throughout the Bay Area have been kept in a temperature-controlled county facility.

Dana Neitzel, curator of the historical association, took the initiative in car care, drawing on her decades of experience in the careful handling of various types of historic materials.

Neitzel is tasked with finding Ferrell when seeking the association of a consultant who could examine the collection and make recommendations on developing their exhibit. Once able to keep up with Ferrell, Neitzel shared his appreciation for the experience, noting that Ferrell’s expertise helped the team dig deeper into the items they have stored for years and clarify the functional purpose. of some of the vehicles.

“We knew we had this collection and we knew it was important, but how important is it? We had to clarify our story, ”said Neitzel.

Seeking to share some of the knowledge Ferrell carries, the historical association hosted a presentation on Tuesday, June 29, in which Ferrell described the history of the transportation industry she helped uncover.

Mitch Postel, president of the association, said the event was an opportunity to meet some of the museum’s best supporters, attended by local leaders such as Supervisor Carole Groom and County Director Mike Callagy.

“People were thrilled that we had come this far and having a national eye on what we are doing was a good idea,” Postel said. “She will help us make it clear that there is a museum on the west coast that does something unique for our part of the world.”

Build the exhibition

Ferrell’s expert opinion on the county’s collection will be translated into a report that will help the museum develop exhibits for its new Taube Family Carriage House. Estimated at $ 11.5 million, the 15,000 square foot shed will rise over three floors, just behind the existing museum.

Initial plans called for 10 historic Brewster cars, a leading mid-19th century car maker, to be staged on the second floor alongside Victorian-era dresses and the museum’s textile collection.

But after Ferrell’s visit, Postel said the team are now re-examining plans for the exhibit, noting Ferrell is “taken by” the museum’s Studebaker car collection. Based in South Bend, Indiana, the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company was another large producer of horse-drawn vehicles, working out of a factory that spanned 92 acres.

“We can go in a different direction,” Postel said. “We thought doing some sort of comparison of these vehicles might be something quite unique.”

The connection of humans to animals could also become a more important focus in the exhibition. Neitzel and Ferrell both noted that the connection that local car owners had with their horses caused car use to spread into the 20th century, when cars began to take precedence.

A conservation corner on the second floor will provide visitors with access to the historic association’s automotive restoration efforts, separated by a window. And an interactive corner will also allow children to sit in a stroller with two benches offering them the experience of driving a horse-drawn carriage.

The top floor will feature a covered rooftop terrace and banquet hall, which will more than double the number of events the museum could host each year. With 4,670 square feet of space, the events could accommodate up to 200 people.

Between the shed and the nearby historic Lathrop home would be a new 1,200 square foot Lathrop Yard. Pavers would replace the existing asphalt and planters would be placed around the yard. As proposed, the rear staircase of the Lathrop House would be removed and the entrance permanently closed to make room for the courtyard.

Planning for the project continued during the pandemic, with construction scheduled to begin this year, Postel said. The entire project is expected to last up to two years and will replace an existing parking lot.

“It happens,” Postel said. “We are working as fast as possible.

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