Nevada County museum officials reject artifact disposal accusations |

Nevada County museum officials reject artifact disposal accusations

A mining artifact sits in front of the North Star Mining Museum, located off of Allison Ranch Road and McCourtney Road in Grass Valley.
John Hart/ | The Union

Officials at the North Star Mining Museum in Grass Valley denied accusations Tuesday made by the wife of a former volunteer, who said the organization that operates the facility sold off historic artifacts and destroyed records to cover up the relics’ origins.

“(T)he current regime of the Historical Society is grossly abusing its authority,” said Renee Bulf, wife of former docent Al Bulf, in a letter to Grass Valley Public Works Director Tim Kiser sent in late September.

“We’re not doing anything wrong around here. Every thing is in place,” said museum director Rudy Cisar. “Nothing has left the mining museum or around it.”

Bulf’s accusations stem from an effort in early September to raise funds for a shed for the museum’s restoration expert, who currently has no place to work or keep his tools, Cisar said.

“We’re not doing anything wrong around here. Every thing is in place. Nothing has left the mining museum or around it.”
Rudy Cisar
North Star Mining Museum director

With an abundance of large equipment strewn about the museum’s premises, officials proposed scrapping insignificant materials to fund the shed, Cisar said.

Museum officials, including Robert Shoemaker, an internationally recognized mining expert, went around the premises deeming metal pieces as insignificant, unrelated to Nevada County or equipment that simply could not be identified, Cisar said.

Equipment to be discarded included three old mining transformers, two compressors and a water tank.

“We have some equipment that we determined does belong here,” Cisar said. “(Shoemaker) knows his mining equipment. That’s been his life. He’s world-renowned.”

But when Al Bulf got wind of this, he felt that the soon-to-be discarded equipment could be salvaged or at least given to other interested preservationist organizations, he told The Union.

“The nominal reason is to clean up the clutter and make the museum a more pleasant experience for visitors,” Renee Bulf explained in her letter. “However, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water, and the resulting experience for visitors is anything but pleasant.”

Because the city of Grass Valley owns the land, the Nevada County Historical Society leases the space from the municipality. However, the society owns all the equipment on the premises, said Dan Ketcham, the president of the society’s board of directors.

After Al Bulf brought his concerns to the city officials and others in Nevada County, Cisar decided, while on vacation, to halt any scrapping activities, he said.

“So my position was that everything stays — nothing goes — it isn’t worth the effort,” Cisar said. “We haven’t gotten rid of anything.”

Kiser said the city intends to enhance its lease agreement with photos of all equipment on the premises and determine whether any of it was on site prior to the rental. Any equipment deemed to belong to the city would need city permission to be removed, Kiser said.

The Historical Society is also adopting a policy necessitating its board approve the disposal of any large equipment, Ketcham said.

Renee Bulf’s accusations don’t stop there, though. In her long letter to Kiser, she accused Cisar of destroying artifact records and dipping into the museum’s donation jar. She also alleged that the Historical Society had sold off the museum’s gold.

“You’re kidding me. That’s absolutely insane,” Cisar said when informed of the accusation. “The only gold we sell is the ones in little bottles as souvenirs in the gift shop — and those are from elsewhere.”

With a recent El Dorado County robbery of a museum’s gold, The Union agreed to not disclose the location of the Historical Society’s mining gold, but both Cisar and Ketcham declared the accusation false.

“This docent and former docent raised a ruckus without knowing what they are talking about,” Ketcham said. “They had a lot of misinformation.”

After Al Bulf’s efforts to block the disposal of equipment, he was relieved of his docent title, his wife noted.

“I can’t have a loose cannon around here having the mayor, Tim Kiser and everyone else upset,” Cisar said.

Ketcham supported Cisar’s decisions, he said.

“Our directors are appointed by me. Rudy has been an excellent director and I stand behind him 100 percent,” Ketcham said.

“There are times when we have docent issues. The museum director has the prerogative to disassociate volunteers from the operation.”

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 more information on the North Star Mine Museum, call 530.273.4255 or visit

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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