Permanent Exhibits

Most historic districts in this country consist of small sections of a larger more developed city. The Mendocino Historic Preservation District consists of the town itself and this creates a dynamic that is evident as one walks the streets. While visitors come to enjoy the historic townscape, the residents are also using the post office, the library, the school, and the grocery store. The town has an architectural governing board that reviews all town plans to ensure the visual presence of this historical town is preserved. The Kelley House Museum, in keeping with historical preservation, is furnished with period furniture from the late 1800s. The three upstairs bedrooms are furnished with items that belonged to the Kelley family or came from the period in which they lived in the house.

In addition, the museum contains some of the following standing collections:

  • The Kelley Family

    In honor of the 160th anniversary of the Kelley House, a permanent exhibit showcasing the home’s original inhabitants opened in December 2021 at the museum. Rediscover 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.

    Kelley Scrapbook

    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.

    On the large exhibit screen, visitors can enjoy a new slide show of historic family portraits. Says Museum curator Karen McGrath, “The Kelleys were a close group who loved to travel together all over the world. But Mendocino was home base, the place they returned to visit frequently, even those that lived in San Francisco.”

    The exhibit is now a permanent addition to the other educational displays found throughout the two-story, 160-year-old Victorian-era house museum. 

  • 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.

  • Then and Now Photo Exhibit
    Then and Now Pair

    “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 location. These revealing images show how things have changed and how some things may never change.

  • Exhibit on Native Americans
    Native woman and boy

    Pomos lived along the Mendocino Coast for thousands of years prior to European settlement in 1850. Pomo simply means “the people.” In 1855, the federal government established the Mendocino Indian Reservation on 25,000 acres between the Noyo and Ten Mile Rivers, with its military headquarters located in what is now the business center of the town of Fort Bragg, ten miles north of Mendocino. It is reported that by 1857, thousands of Native Americans (not all Pomo) had been rounded up from as far away as Eureka and Chico and confined on this reservation for nine years before it was discontinued in 1866. Reservation lands were then sold off to European settlers and the Coastal Pomos were relocated elsewhere, many went inland to the Round Valley Reservation

    Our Native American exhibit offers a historical overview of Mendocino’s earliest residents, as well as an array of photo prints and artifacts depicting their way of life. On loan from the California Indian Museum are six examples of decorative gift and utilitarian baskets belonging to the Daisy Kelley MacCallum Collection. And from the Dorothy Byrnes Leonard Collection are examples of decorative gift and utilitarian baskets, a woven infant carrier, and a duplicate toy cradle.