A portal to past & future | TheUnion.com

A portal to past & future

Although they might no longer be living, there is a place where you can meet John Muir, Lotta Crabtree and Josiah Royce and visit the mining town of Columbia and the Sierra Valley from the comfort of your easy chair.

It’s made possible by the creation of the Sierra Nevada Virtual Museum, a product of the Center for Sierra Nevada Studies at the Rocklin-based Sierra College.

The online portal gives viewers a glimpse into the history and importance of the California mountain range that stretches from Plumas County in California’s northeastern quadrant to Inyo County, home to California and the lower 48 states’ highest and lowest points.

Viewers to the site are greeted to an interactive show that is part travelogue, part history lesson and the best of what any area Chamber of Commerce has to offer.

That’s precisely the point, said Gary Noy, a historian and director of the Center for Sierra Nevada Studies who worked with students for nearly a year to produce the site.

“While there’s plenty of sites that are specific, there’s nothing like this that’s as broad that goes into the arts and history of the region. It’s like a one-stop shop,” he said.

Noy, graphic design students and a host of volunteers worked for nine months on the site, which officially debuts Thursday at a launch party on the Rocklin campus.

Photos and essays were contributed by area artists, as well.

The Web site is the brainchild of Noy, who has spent years chronicling the history of the Sierra Nevada in photos and text.

A virtual tour of the 250 miles of Highway 49 on the site was adapted from a similar project undertaken by Noy several years ago.

Click on a town such as Sonora, and you’ll learn that the “Queen of the Southern Mines” has at least one church constructed over an old mine shaft. About an hour north is Drytown, a burg of 79 people so named because of the lack of water in a “stream” that flowed nearby.

According to the Sierra Nevada Virtual Museum, however, the town was once home to 26 saloons.

“Of all the things we did, that might be the most involved project,” Noy said. “It’s more than just history we’re discovering on this site. (The Sierra) is very dynamic, and there’s lots of change, and I tried to reflect that in the writing.

So many of these Sierra towns are grappling with the pull of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow.

“The Sierra is not this monolith. It’s constantly being innovative and changing,” he said.

Noy is perhaps most proud of the site’s look and feel, which was coordinated by instructor Pam Johnson and her graphic design students.

Now that the site has launched, Johnson is hoping to add three-dimensional interactive maps to show how the Sierra Nevada mountain range was formed, along with more history and geology exhibits.

Students will be a the forefront of these upcoming projects.

“To me, this is the core of what education is, where people get together and learn. It’s where the teacher is simply facilitating the experience.”

Student Sandrine Tournier, 38, helped assemble a timeline of the Sierra for the site. A native of suburban Paris.

“This is like a book,” she said. “You read one chapter and you’re always thinking about the next.”

Hesam Rahmanian, 24, created the logo for the site and was a key developer of its design.

“There was nothing in my mind as to how it was going to look,” said the Sierra College student who lives in Orangevale. “Every part has its own kind of memory for me.”

Noy, who was able to assemble the project without any significant capital, said his students made the project sing.

“In my mind, they’re the real heroes of the project.”

Know and go

What: Launch party for Sierra Nevada Virtual Museum

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Sierra College Rocklin campus, 5000 Rocklin Road. The party will be at the school’s Ridley Gallery and in the boardroom, Learning Resources Library first floor, room LR 133A.

Admission: Parking, $1

Information: (916) 624-3333

Web site: http://www.sierranevadavirtualmuseum.com

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