While the Capitol was still under reconstruction, the Legislature hired and trained both staff and volunteers to interpret the restoration of the Capitol. In the early 1990s, the Legislature contracted with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, also known as California State Parks, to perform these interpretative duties for the Capitol and to manage the museum and exhibits. State Parks absorbed the legislative staff and volunteers, and hired and trained new staff.
The Legislature, with the assistance of the State Parks, worked diligently to recreate the historic rooms to their appearance in the early twentieth century. An intensive research effort began to gather furnishings, artifacts, and artwork, as well as to create interpretive materials and set up ongoing curation for the historic materials and rooms.
Museum Educational and Tour Program
The Department of Parks and Recreation took over the Capitol tour program from the Legislature in the early 1990s. State Parks’ mission statement is “to provide for the health, inspiration, and education of the people of California.”
The California State Capitol Museum has developed a full tour and educational program, including eight public tours a day, school tours, special tours for the Legislators, and tours of Capitol Park. State Parks’ goal to educate and inspire visitors has reached far beyond traditional tours to include newspapers, mass media, and television, as well as the Holiday Music Program and the PORTS outreach program, which allows students in the classroom to learn about the Capitol via a live media feed.
The Capitol Museum’s volunteers offer additional educational opportunities including living history programs in period clothing, reenactment of historic events, and the annual Admission Day event, among others. Our dedicated volunteers run the gift shop, fund museum projects, and give freely of their time to make the museum a fun place to visit.
Part of Capitol Parks’ mandate is to maintain and protect historic rooms, including the Secretary of State’s office, the 1906 State Treasury, the 1933 State Treasury, and the Governor’s anteroom, main office, and private office. These rooms illustrate legislative historic offices in the early twentieth century. Walk around and stop by these rooms during your visit! Other historic rooms hold rotating museum exhibits as another means of educating and inspiring Capitol visitors.
Capitol Art Program
In addition to the creation of the historic museum rooms and the tour program, several other programs were put into effect: the historical furnishings project, which provided authentic, period antiques throughout the historic Capitol, and the historical art loan program, which provided period paintings to complete the Victorian interiors. As restoration funds were not budgeted to purchase art, the art loan program was established to fill the gap.
Since 1982, lenders have supplemented the collection and significantly enhanced the volume and quality of artwork. Over the years, the collection has grown appreciably to include many museum-quality paintings due to the generosity of donors. The Capitol Art Program collection, displayed in leadership offices and committee rooms, reflects the unique history and landscape of the state.