New exhibit tells story of California icon

Bear in Mind: The Story of the California Grizzly, a new exhibit that has opened at the Temecula Valley Museum, is exploring the relationship that Californians have had with the grizzly over the years, according to museum manager Tracy Frick.

“It’s really a very interesting exhibit,” said Frick. “It talks about the grizzly bear in California and how the grizzly bear was a symbol of strength and power in California and the pioneer spirit. It’s ironic that the grizzly bear has disappeared because of that strength and power and pioneer spirit. They were all throughout

California.”

The museum is always looking for exhibits that touch on California’s and Temecula’s colorful history, Frick said.

“This exhibit really meets that criterion,” she said.

Although now extinct in the state, the grizzly has long been a central character in California’s history. The grizzly possessed many characteristics that we hold dear including independence, adaptability, resourcefulness, intelligence, and strong maternal care, according to a press release issued by the museum.

“Yet, human interaction with the bears was misguided, intolerant, and violent,” the release

states.

Scientists estimate that 10,000 grizzlies once lived in California, perhaps the densest population of brown bears on the continent. However, through increased human settlement, loss of habitat, and hunting, by the early 1900s the California grizzly had vanished and could only be seen on the state flag.

Although the loss of the California grizzly was a tragic lesson, Frick said she hopes that the exhibit will serve to remind people that we are not too late to save other threatened and endangered species.

“I hope people are mindful about the impact on our state as we grow. We are having an impact on our environment and there are very good ways to manage that,” she said. “This exhibit is very powerful and reminds us that it is important to manage.”

There is an area for both adults and for children to explore and learn the history of this symbol of things desired. Frick said noting the museum wants children to really experience the exhibit and not just look through glass.

“It shows children the importance of this as well,” she said. “Children can compare their size to that of the average grizzly bear and they can touch the fake paws of the bear and there is a map that illustrates how many grizzly bears there were throughout California and by time period how many people there were versus how many bears there were. It takes you through modern times when there was only one bear left and of course now, there are no more grizzly bears in California, and that is a shame.”

The exhibit, which is on display through Friday, July 13, is produced and toured by the California Exhibition Resources Alliance (CERA). The exhibition was developed in concert with The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley and Heyday Books. It was supported by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation with additional funds from the Bank of the West.

The Temecula Valley Museum in Sam Hicks Monument Park is located at 28314 Mercedes Street, one block east of Front Street in Old Town Temecula. For more information call the museum at (951) 694-6450 or visit the museum Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

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