The mission of the Clarke Historical Museum is to celebrate the rich and varied history of Northwestern California by preserving, sharing, and interpreting that history in ways that increase knowledge, enrich the spirit, engage the mind, and stimulate the imagination.
The Clarke Historical Museum sits on Wiyot land in Eureka on the shores of Humboldt Bay, the traditional homeland of the Wiyot peoples of the Wiyot tribe, Blue Lake Rancheria, and Bear River Rancheria. The land that Eureka sits on is known in the Wiyot language as Jaroujiji, where you sit and rest, while Humboldt Bay is known as Wigi, after a story of how the bay became a saltwater bay. Despite actions sanctioned by the local, State and Federal governments designed specifically to remove the Wiyot (and other indigenous peoples) from the land and destroy their cultural practices, Wiyot people remain on these lands and practice ceremonies central to the maintenance of their traditions, culture, and landscape. They continue to shape the history and knowledge of this place and are actively working to restore the land stolen from them.
In response to this, the Clarke Museum pledges to continue working towards a more socially just museum through educating the public on the past, present, and future of the museum’s Native collections and related programming, and returning stolen items that are found in the museum’s collections. We encourage the public to educate themselves about whose lands they live on and the cultural heritage of the people who have been forcibly removed (see https://native-land.ca/ ) , along with the original place names in local languages.
Learn more about Land Acknowledgements here.
Learn more about Wiyot place names here, and access the Wiyot language database via UC Berkeley here
Interested in writing a land acknowledgement? Click here for a video on what makes a good land acknowledgement
The Clarke Museum and NAGPRA FAQ
Founder Cecile Clarke
The Clarke Historical Museum was founded by Cecile Clarke (1885-1979). Miss Clarke was a local history teacher at Eureka High School. It was here at Eureka High that she first started displaying her collection of local Native American basketry. In 1960, when the school ran out of room for her ever increasing collection of local history items, Miss Clarke sold her family sheep ranch and used the money to buy the old Bank of Eureka building and she set up her collection here. People gave her more things for the museum and it continued to grow.
Miss Clarke taught for over 40 years and dedicated her life to the museum. Originally named the Clarke Memorial Museum, after her parents, it was renamed the Clarke Historical Museum in 2001, and now runs as a privately operated non-profit organization for the use, benefit, and awareness of the City of Eureka, surrounding cities and the local Native Indian tribes.
Bank of Eureka Building
One hundred three years ago, the Bank of Eureka opened its newly constructed building, currently home to the Clarke Historical Museum. The area, including the Clarke Museum property, was originally homesteaded in the 1860s. In 1871, the locally famous Huff House was built on this site and later was known as the Bay Hotel. It was destroyed by a spectacular fire in the late 1880s. The Bay Hotel was the temporary home of the Newsom brothers architects when they were supervising the construction of the William Carson Mansion/ Ingomar Club and other homes in the area.
The Bank of Eureka and the Savings Bank of Humboldt County opened a two-story brick building on this site which was incorporated October 4, 1889, and opened for business July 1, 1890. The original board of directors included William Carson. In July of 1911 the brick building was demolished to make way for this new building and the bank offices were moved across the street during construction.
The 1911-1912 bank building was designed by the San Francisco architect Albert Pissis (1852-1914), the architect who introduced the Beaux-Arts architectural style to San Francisco and designed a number of important buildings in the city in the years before and after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. He was one of the first Americans to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He was a major figure in the Neoclassical (Classical Revival) movement, particularly Beaux-Arts, and introduced that style to San Francisco beginning with the Hibernia bank building in 1892. Pissis played a major role in San Francisco’s reconstruction following the Great Earthquake of 1906, both as a designer of a number of the city’s landmark buildings and as a member of the Committee of Fifty in charge of the restoration of San Francisco after the great earthquake.
In 1954 Bank of Eureka merged with Crocker-Anglo London-Paris National, later Anglo Crocker, then Crocker Citizen, but in 1957 Crocker moved out and the building sat vacant. Cecile Clarke purchased the building in 1959. On June 8, 1960 Clarke Memorial Museum opened at this site and dedicated on August 21, 1960 as a memorial to Ms. Clarke’s parents, Joseph and Annie Clarke, Mendocino County pioneers of the 1860s. In 1979 Nealis Hall annex opened on the site of the former Liberty Theater.
Nealis Hall is named after James A. Nealis, President of the Redwood Empire Association (October 16, 1970 – September 21, 1972). Through the efforts of Mr. Nealis, the generous donation of the land by Richard Mann, in cooperation with the Eureka City Council, and funds from the Economic Development Administration, Nealis Hall was dedicated on June 15, 1979. It now houses the Museum's extensive Native American Basketry and Regalia collection that grew from Ms. Clarke’s collection and with help and donations from the children and citizens of the City of Eureka.
The Clarke Historical Museum is Humboldt County's largest museum. In addition to more generalized artifacts and materials, the museum emphasizes artifacts (textiles, weaponry, tools, household, workplace and entertainment items), along with photos and documents that follow European settlement in Humboldt County, which began in the 1850's to its present-day manifestations.
The Clarke Historical Museum's Native American collection is unparalleled in its depth and breadth of tribes of Northwestern California. The greatest holding is the Karuk Hover Collection which is exceedingly rich in women's ceremonial caps, flour and gambling trays, and fancy baskets made for the trade. Other highlights include a Yurok canoe, fishing gear, a model redwood pit house, and outstanding displays of ceremonial regalia with women's shell dresses, necklaces, and men's feather headdresses. Flint and obsidian points and knives are also well represented in the collection. The Clarke Historical Museum is a living museum that is closely involved with the Indian community. The museum has Native American board members and large portions of its collection have been donated by Native Americans. It is dedicated to preserving and displaying traditional Northwestern Indian culture in all its beauty and magnificence.
~ Ron Johnson
240 E Street
Eureka, California 95501