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History Museum to Debut River Exhibit as Artist Embarks on Journey Aboard a Shantyboat


The Sacramento History Museum’s latest exhibit features a compelling look at river living through the eyes of an artist who has meticulously documented his travels on over a 1000 river miles. Opening on the brink of launching his next river adventure down the Sacramento River, the exhibit includes a 3-day opportunity to see the artist’s homemade “shantyboat” during a stop in Sacramento in late July.

Santa Cruz artist Wes Modes’ river journeys are part of a multi-year, multi-river art and history project designed to encourage awareness of issues facing current river communities, to detail the long history of people who have lived and worked on and adjacent to the river, and to highlight basic river ecology. The project has a focus on the people of America’s rivers with much of Modes’ careful documentation involving the people he has met along the way.

Having already traveled down the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, the Sacramento River will be his latest river travel aboard his “rustic recreated 1940s shantyboat”.  This house/shantyboat is the very same shantyboat that Modes will launch from Red Bluff on July 1 in a plan to reach San Francisco Bay by the end of the month.

The museum’s exhibit, which opens July 1 and continues through the end of the month, will give guests the opportunity to see photos, view artifacts, and read narratives that showcase Modes’ experiences. And, for a limited time, the small shantyboat will be on display at the river’s edge in Old Sacramento – very near the History Museum – from July 19 – July 22. Better yet, admission is free to step aboard.

For those who have a river story to tell, an interactive element of the exhibit will be available to guests who wish to share their own personal river stories on special cards provided.

The project has been exhibited nationwide in the American Midwest and South in conjunction with expeditions on the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers. Now in the fourth year of the project, Modes has talked with thousands of people about the river before beginning his next journey on the Sacramento River.

The A Secret History of American River People exhibit will be on display at the Museum through July 30. Museum admission costs $8 for adults, $5 for youth (ages 6 to 17), and children five and under are free (along with museum members).

For more information, photos, and/or blog posts about the Secret History project, visit peoplesriverhistory.us. For more information about the Sacramento History Museum and visiting the exhibit, visit sachistorymuseum.org or call 916-808-7059.

Photo courtesy of Wes Modes

About the author

Traci Rockefeller Cusack

Traci Rockefeller Cusack has 25+ years of media and public relations experience.  Her work experience includes News10 (ABC) as Promotion Manager from 1989-1998 (where she developed and launched “Coats for Kids’ Sake,” a winter coat drive that lasted 20+ years plus coordinated Oprah Winfrey’s first ever visit to Sacramento) and Fleishman-Hillard as Vice President from 1998-2005 (where she led the wildly successful statewide “California Grown” program and also produced the five-minute video that played on the Jumbotron on Opening Day at Pac Bell Park). In 2007, she launched T-Rock Communications and currently handles a wide range of marketing activities for a number of top-notch organizations.

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