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Past Exhibits


Almond Capital of the World

In the 1930s, Paso Robles boasted 30,000 to 40,000 acres of almond orchards and became known as the almond capital of the world.  The conditions in Paso Robles were ideal for dry-farming almonds.  This exhibit provides the history behind Paso's almond industry, from the early 1700s to its decline in the 1950s & 1960s.


How the Italians Changed the Landscape and Wine Culture of San Luis Obispo County, 1900 to Present

Curated and sponsored by the Wine History Project & featured in the Wine History Gallery


Carnegie Laying of corner stone. Karl Vo

Carnegie Library

The Woman’s Auxiliary Club, which ran a reading room & lending library in the ‘Acorn’ building, petitioned the City Trustees to establish a free library. The Trustees applied for a Carnegie grant in 1907. They were granted $10,000 and the site chosen was the center of the city park. The cornerstone was laid on January 29, 1908.  This display showcases the history of the Paso Robles Library with photos & artifacts.  One is able to see portions of the exhibit in the stacks.


Snapshots of La Panza As Seen Through the Eyes of the Still Family

This unique exhibit features photos, in the form of cabinet cards and a video, of the Still Family who came to the La Panza area during the only Coastal Range gold rush in 1879.  The photos are from a Still Family photo album and 76 glass plate negatives donated to the PRAHS & Museum.  The Pioneer Museum also provided several photos from their collection of the Still family.  The 'snapshots' provide the viewer with an insight into the daily life of one pioneering family in the remote area southeast of Paso Robles.  Many of the photographs were likely taken by Dr. Still's daughter, Dabirma Still MacLean, the most prolific woman photographer of her time.

Celebrating Our Mining History

Mining in and around the Paso Robles area dates back to 1862 with the discovery of cinnabar in the Santa Lucia Mountains.  Gold was discovered in the La Panza area in the early 1800s and there was a minor Gold rush in 1878.  Chromite has been mined in San Luis Obispo County since about 1870 and coal was discovered in 1875 in Slack Canyon, northeast of San Miguel.  There are presently 52 active mining claims.  This exhibit provides a glimpse into our mining history.

The Ties That Bind Us

Santa Margarita Historical Society, established in 2004, has partnered with the Paso Robles Area Historical Society & Museum with an exhibit titled: “The Ties That Binds Us.” This exhibit beautifully compliments the Paso Robles History Museum’s exhibit: “A Snapshot of La Panza Through the Eyes of the Still Family.” You will discover the rich history of Santa Margarita, the gateway to North San Luis Obispo County, La Panza, and the Carrizo Plains. You will also learn about the lives of a family that stayed connected despite the distances between them.


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Exceptional Women of the Paso Robles Area

Many exceptional women of Paso Robles and its surrounding area have helped shape Paso Robles into what it is today.  A few of these women are featured with photos and stories of their unique contributions with a special focus on Dolly Barba Bader, a 7th generation Californian. A few photos from the early 1890s, taken by photographer R.J. Arnold, have been added to this exhibit as points of interest.

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Temperance, Teetotalers & Taboo

This exhibit, curated by The Wine History Project, looks at the Temperance Movement, the events leading up to the passage of the 18th Amendment, and the effects of Prohibition on grape growing, both locally & statewide.  In the 1880s, a movement was underway, driven by religious & ideological groups, denouncing liquor as the plague of society.  They eventually succeeded with the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1917 and its ratification in 1920, one hundred years ago.  The 18th Amendment, the only amendment that limited human freedom, allowed for loopholes, however, and vineyards across California increased to levels not seen again until the 1970s!

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History of Women’s Suffrage in the Paso Robles Area

Women’s suffrage in the United States, the legal right of women to vote, was established over the course of more than half a century. California was the 6th state to allow women to vote, 9 years before the 19th Amendment enfranchised women nationally. Organizations that supported women’s suffrage nationwide, and eventually locally, are displayed - The Grange, Farmers’ Alliance, Populist party, Political Equality League, and the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union). Women in rural parts of America traditionally had more rights or freedoms than women in the cities.  They were treated as valuable members of the community.

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More of R.J. Arnold’s Portraits of the Central Coast

The final major presentation of Richard J. Arnold’s beautifully haunting images created from the Randall G. Young collection of glass plate negatives are displayed. Arnold’s most significant contribution to early California photography was his choice to photograph all sorts of people, not limiting his subjects to paying clients.  While working in San Luis Obispo (1886-1892), Mr. Arnold created one of the largest and earliest portraits of early life in our area.



Examples of early photographic methods, from daguerrotypes, tin types, glass plate negatives, to film are displayed as a compliment the R.J. Arnold exhibit.  



Bottles & Tools from The California Gold Rush

On loan from the San Luis Obispo Wine History Project, this display features a collection of rare bottles and tools from the California Gold Rush period. Beginning in 1848, hundreds of thousands of people came from around the world in search of gold, prompting one of the largest migrations in U.S. history.  Many who did not succeed in mining turned to California’s “green gold.”  Enterprising newcomers from Europe saw an opportunity to satisfy demands for wine and they planted the first orchards and vineyards.

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A timeline of one Salinan family and their way of life in the central California villages of San Simeon and Jolon.  The exhibit comes to the Carnegie through the generosity of the Salinan Tribe of Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties.  Visitors can follow the footsteps of Agueda Agata, a Salinan woman born in 1673, as she traces the history of her Salinan Family and their lands from 1542 to present day.  Salinan artifacts and hand-crafted items produced by some of Agata’s descendants and Salinan Tribal members are also displayed.



On display are fourteen wine and champagne bottles that have been transformed through paintings and etchings into beautiful works of art by Central Coast artist Candice Norcross.  Using bottles of various sizes, shapes and colors, and differing themes, Ms. Norcross has created a colorful and unique collection that is a must see.

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More of R.J. Arnold’s Portraits of the Central Coast

The Carnegie Library is once again exhibiting another group of extraordinary photographs produced from our scans of Richard J. Arnold’s glass plate negatives.  The collection on display features the framed prints of Mr. Arnold’s work that were shown at the Paris Photo Exhibit in Los Angeles in 2015.   Visitors have been marveling at the quality of the photographs given that the original subjects sat for Mr. Arnold over 125 years ago.

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Adelaida - Bryson Hesperia - Creston - Estrella - Shandon

Paso Robles developed as a flourishing town due to the support of the many farming and ranching families throughout the area.  Our exhibit celebrates all those hearty pioneers who worked the land, raised their families, built their local churches and schools, and through their support helped Paso Robles to grow and prosper into the thriving community it is today. 

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More of R.J. Arnold’s Portraits of the Central Coast

It has been almost two years since we first saw the amazing images of central coast photographer Richard J. Arnold at the Carnegie Library.  There are now 23 new photographs on display and once again we are able to catch a glimpse of what life was like in this area 125 years ago.  Anthony Lepore curated, scanned and produced the stunning photographs which were then beautifully framed by Dorothy Lefebvre at the 1890 House. Paris Photo Los Angeles is the U.S. edition of the world’s most celebrated art fair for works created in the photographic medium.  Each year there is an historic component to the Fair.  This year 50 images from the Randal G. Young collection of R.J. Arnold’s glass plate negatives were selected.  The exhibit is entitled “California Unedited! The Archives of R.J. Arnold.”

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To celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the city’s founding in 1889, the Historical Society is showcasing the history and founding of El Paso de Robles - The Early History of the Area, The Founding Fathers, The Founding of the Town, The Growth of the Town, The Carnegie Library, Ignace Jan Paderewski, and Into the Future.

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 R.J. Arnold’s Portraits of the Central Coast

The El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society received two thousand 19th century glass plate photographic negatives, the largest collection of historic items received by the Society to date.  A group of Historical Society volunteers has worked steadily to clean and catalog the negatives.  On display are a selection of 19 photographs which were curated by Anthony Lepore, MFA, Professor of Photography.  To compliment the exhibit, display cases feature a selection of vintage photographic equipment. 

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