Kelley House Museum ~ Exhibits

The Kelley House Museum is proud to present current, online and in person exhibits. Each one contributes to the rich history of the Mendocino Coast.


poster good mourning mendocino

Good Mourning Mendocino: Funeral Rites and Customs

Exhibit runs 9/20 – 11/27/2022

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”

In keeping with this idiom, the Kelley House Museum invites you to explore one of life’s certainties—death—through a new exhibit on funeral customs observed throughout the Mendocino’s history. Far from an exploration of the macabre, the exhibit reveals the artistry of headstone carvings and mourning parlor décor. Marvel at the business side of burial, as shown on undertaker’s ledgers and plot invoices. Historic photos reveal the funeral practices observed amongst Mendocino’s diverse cultures, including one of a Taoist altar and another of Pomo baskets used for the deceased. This photo is from the Kelley House Museum archives, showing James Milliken’s casket in the mourning parlor, 1909.


poster the kelley family

The Kelley Family

Meet the Kelley Family: parents William and Eliza, and their four children, Daisy, Russell, Elise, and Otis, along with their extended family. A beautiful, hand-embellished family tree helps visitors understand their relationships to each other. Among the exhibit’s highlights is a one-of-a-kind scrapbook with postcards, clippings, snap shots, and other memorabilia that reveal scenes from the family’s everyday life.

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Look Tin Eli: The Mendocino Visionary Who Helped Shape the Chinese American Experience @ kelley house museum virtual exhibit

Look Tin Eli

The life of Mendocino-born visionary Look Tin Eli was one of national significance. As a teenager returning home from China in 1884, his illegal detention instigated a court battle, culminating in the state’s legal precedent granting full citizenship for all native-born Californians. This story, which starts with one man from a small coastal town, will take us from frontier California into the mid-twentieth century and illustrates the struggle for full citizenship by Chinese and Japanese immigrants.

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south of main street exhibit

South of Main Street

Once a coastal prairie, then a bustling rail and lumberyard ringed by stores and houses, the south side of Main Street in Mendocino is now devoid of buildings. This exhibit uses historic photos and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to reveal the 20 buildings that used to line the south side of the street, including a jewelry store, Chinese stores, dwellings, a post office, and meat market.

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poster from stump to ship

From Stump to Ship: Logging in Mendocino. 1852-1945

The California Gold Rush of 1849 created a building boom with lumber needed for houses, bridges, mining structures, and fences.  The size of old growth redwood trees, which are among the tallest on earth, made them prized timber. This slideshow explains how a tree was felled, milled into lumber, and then loaded onto ships that carried it to all parts of the world during Mendocino’s early years.

From Stump to Ship Slideshow

Video Tour of Kelley House Museum Second Floor

Because of the historic nature of the Kelley House, there is no elevator to the second floor. We asked students from Mendocino High School’s tech department to create a virtual tour so that those who aren’t able to access the upstairs exhibits can learn about the treasures within the Kelley family members’ bedrooms. We hope you enjoy their work and appreciate the interest they took in this project.


woven baskets

Pomo Basket Collection

Pomos lived along the Mendocino Coast for thousands of years prior to European settlement in 1850. On loan from the California Indian Museum are six examples of decorative gift and utilitarian baskets belonging to the Daisy Kelley MacCallum Collection.

then and now exhibit

Then and Now Photo Exhibit

“Then and Now” exhibit portrays the town of Mendocino and its surroundings by comparing scenes photographed approximately 100 years apart. The original photographs, taken by local, amateur photographer Perley Maxwell, were printed by the 2002 Mendocino High School photography class. The students then took modern day digital images of the same locations. These revealing images show how things have changed and how some things may never change.

The Frolic Shipwreck

In 1850, the Baltimore-built Clipper Frolic, en-route to Gold-Rush San Francisco from China, wrecked on a reef just north of today’s Point Cabrillo Light Station. Her story is among the most fascinating in California shipwreck history and is called “the most significant shipwreck on the west coast” by historians. Artifacts and interpretive materials from the shipwreck of the Frolic are on permanent exhibit.

We invite you to check out our online book store with over 30 titles devoted exclusively to Mendocino’s fascinating history.