Sisson Museum opens with impressive new displays

Paul Boerger
The new Sisson Museum display with a mural, artifacts and pictures covers six Mount Shasta historic eras from early Native Americans to the present.

Walking into the Sisson Museum for Friday’s History Night you find the first display area utterly transformed. A huge colorful mural of Mount Shasta sweeps across two walls. The mural content flows down to match the subjects of new displays featuring pictures and artifacts of six historic Mount Shasta eras.

Titled “Beauty and Wonder Living in the Valley of Mount Shasta,” the displays capture the essence of Mount Shasta from Native American implements to the railroads to snowboarding on the mountain.

Also impressive was the turnout for the April 4 event. Several hundred volunteers, well-wishers and museum supporters packed the facility.

Another new display in the back room contains more than 100 photographs with attached stories contributed by community members. They span the history of Mount Shasta from the early 1900s to present day.

You can see the first Mount Shasta firefighters’ Santa’s Sleigh that was nearly the size of a small house and early versions of some of the town’s prominent people.

There is a young Dr. Jim Parker in 1982, and see if you can find a youthful Velma Nile as a Ski Bowl instructor circa 1956. Did you know that the Mount Shasta Herald sponsored a group of Ski Bowl ski school instructors, circa 1959?

The display provides a fascinating historic sweep of the town. Attendees had a great time identifying Mount Shasta landmarks and people they knew or were part of their families from past eras.

Museum executive director Jean Nels spoke briefly, and passionately, about the importance of the museum and the volunteers that make it happen. She encouraged more contributions.

“This is a living museum,” Nels said. “Bring in your old history, more stories and old photographs. We are a community museum.”

Nels asked the volunteers to raise their hands, and arms were raised in every corner of the room. She noted that the museum is sponsoring a series of presentations from Mount Shastans on a variety of local subjects.

She received thunderous applause for her efforts in directing the museum.

The silent and live auctions, with items donated by generous merchants and citizens, raised $8,000 for the museum.

Photographer Kevin Lahey led a team that chose the photos for the new front display, including out-sourcing the processing and upsizing the very old pictures. Photography buffs will appreciate the clarity that was brought out.

Lahey said the team spent three months choosing the pictures and, as the display developed, mural painter Derrel Fleener, with no specific direction, matched the mural to the displays.

“He outsmarted us,” Lahey said.

Fleener said, “I worked two straight weeks, seven days a week, 12 hours a day to finish the mural.”

One of the evening’s highlights was the showing of a 1936 black and white film, recently discovered by the Shasta Historical Society, of a horse ushered to the summit of Mount Shasta. The film had not been seen since 1936 when the team led by John Schuler set out to prove that the 1903 claim of a horse on the summit was not a hoax.

Ongoing displays include “H2O Stories Water Can Tell,” climbing the mountain, lenticular clouds over Mount Shasta photographs, poet Joaquin Miller’s time in Mount Shasta, the old model railroad that continues to delight young and old alike, hands-on education and entertainment areas, and more.

The museum, located at 1 North Old Stage Road, is open April to December with varying hours. For more information, visit the website: or call 530-926-5508.