As most of you know, Gold Mining is what made Nevada County. It is our historical legacy.
If you have ever visited the North Star Mining Museum, you have seen and appreciated the wonderful machinery that was produced to mine the gold. Miners or families of the miners and collectors donated these mining artifacts in good faith and for the future generation of visitors. The building and land was donated to the city of Grass Valley by Newmont Mining Company. The museum is operated by the Nevada County Historical Society.
As president of the Sierra Nevada Mining & Industry Council and part of the mining community, and a previous docent (five years) at the museum, it grieves me to see the changes the new director has brought and his lack of concern about the museum.
The current director, Rudy Cisar, has not only given away artifacts but attempted to sell to a scrapper some very large artifacts that are in the back of the museum.
The extensive, historical mining reference library that was shelved on the wall in the gift shop was used by the docents not only to develop and increase their own knowledge but to give information to the visitors. The director had the books put in storage. He deemed them unnecessary.
We were told the 16-to-1 Mine dinner bell had been given to the owner of the 16-to-1 Mine, as per my suggestion. The bell had been removed when the gift shop was enlarged. When I called the 16-to-1 Mine and talked to the secretary, she related that the owner had no knowledge of the bell but would very much like to have it for his own mining museum in Alleghany.
I talked to Dan Ketcham, the president of the Nevada County Historical Society, about some concerns I had about the disposal of artifacts, when Bob Shoemaker was director, and I was told it was at the director’s discretion.
There was a break-in last year at the museum (the safe held fast and secure). If security cameras were put in place, it would be inexpensive and very effective. The well-known mining man that donated the gold specimens told me he was assured by the historical society that the gold specimens would always be on display for Nevada County and for the visitors to enjoy and is unhappy with the decision to keep the safe closed from now on.
Cisar has also given the new machine repair person free reign and, hence, turned the donkey engine into an unrecognizable carnival exhibit that still does not run after nine months of working on it, and it won’t be completed until May. Cisar asked me what I thought of it, and I told him I was appalled by what had been done to it. In retaliation of my candid remark, the Mining Council was locked out of the museum for a scheduled tour.
The large stamp mill in the back of the museum (which was cast in the Nevada City Foundry) is to be refitted with some type of metal columns instead of wood. I was informed by a working hard-rock miner that if they had plans to make the mill operational, the metal would collapse with the pounding of the stamps. Where is the museum authenticity? Evidently, Cisar or Ketcham does not know about the Antiquities Act, the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest, passed June 8, 1906.
The historical society and the city of Grass Valley have talked of plans to build an additional building at the North Star Mining Museum to house a massive artifact collection (more than 200 Pelton wheels and arrastras) that a couple of collectors want to donate. I say, “Beware,” for once it is in the hands of this director of the museum, it is at his sole discretion what is kept and what is given away.
Al Bulf should not only be reinstated as a docent but appointed director of the North Star Museum. Al has shown dedication to the historical mining legacy by always expanding his knowledge and his respect for the industry and its artifacts.
On Oct. 2, in a meeting hosted by the Sierra Nevada Mining & Industry Council, a motion was made to add the above commentary to the minutes of the meeting and was voted upon and passed by majority vote that this commentary is supported by the Sierra Nevada Mining & Industry Council.
I currently hold office of president of the Sierra Nevada Mining & Industry Council. I have been a member since 1989 when the council was formed.
Carol Marshall lives in Grass Valley.
Editor’s note: In an Oct. 1 story published by The Union, North Star Mining Museum officials denied the allegations that the museum has sold historical artifacts.
“We’re not doing anything wrong around here. Everything is in place,” said museum director Rudy Cisar. “Nothing has left the mining museum or around (the property).”
In that story, both Ketcham and Cisar invited anyone with any concerns to tour the museum, located along Wolf Creek at 10933 Allison Ranch Road, where Highway 20 dissects Highway 49.
For information on the North Star Mine Museum, call 530-273-4255 or visit http://nevadacountyhistory.org.