Los Altos History Museum’s Exhibition Tells the Story of Juana Briones

By October 3, 2018Press Releases

LOS ALTOS, CA (October 3, 2018)  Juana Briones’ story feels modern, but she was born when California was a colony of Spain. The survivor of spousal abuse and the death of her four children in epidemics, this resourceful woman bought a ranch in what became parts of Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills, and was a successful entrepreneur. Yet as a healer and advocate, she always took time to help others in need.

The Los Altos History Museum invites visitors to connect with her remarkable story with its ground-breaking exhibition: “Inspired by Juana: La Doña de la Frontera,” running October 18th, 2018, through March 31, 2019. It will be the first bilingual exhibition offered by the Museum, and the first incorporating student projects.

“Juana Briones’ story is part of a larger story of many people and relationships, ranging from Bolinas to Monterey,” said Dr. Perlita Dicochea, co-curator of the exhibition. “We hope to draw visitors from near and far to the exhibit, which opens the narrative of the complexity and diversity of our history, embracing all aspects.”

Dr. Dicochea holds a B.A. in Communication and Ethnic Studies from Santa Clara University, with a Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley. “From the perspective of a Chicano Studies teacher, I hope the Latino youth will walk away from this exhibition feeling a stronger sense of community identity.”

“I was grabbed by Juana Briones’ life and story when I first started teaching at the Juana Briones Elementary School in Palo Alto in 1988,” said co-curator Halimah Van Tuyl, a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher specializing in history. “When today’s events seem troubling or challenging, it helps to look back in history and find people who faced similar daunting obstacles. Juana certainly inspired me in that way.”

With a passion for creating hands-on experiences in history, Van Tuyl was motivated to find high school students who would help tell Briones’ story. Over the summer, the Los Altos History Museum held a two-week intensive workshop led by Van Tuyl and Dicochea with guest presenters, where students learned about the life and times of Juana Briones and how to curate an exhibition. The student’s poetry, art, and video reenactment will enhance the historical documentary of Juana’s life.

The exhibition will immerse visitors in historic artifacts, colorful displays, and original artwork focusing on Juana as advocate, matriarch, entrepreneur and traditional healer. The museum is free and open to the public Thursdays-Sundays, 12-4pm.

Programming in support of the exhibition (held at the Museum unless otherwise noted) includes:

October 21st, 4-7pm: Exhibition Opening Fiesta with Folklorico dancers and vaquero-inspired menu.

October 27th, 11am-3pm: Dia de los Muertos event. Help make paper flowers and decorate a shrine to honor Juana Briones.

November 10th, 10am-12pm: Storytelling and Corn Husk Doll Making Workshop for Kids with Perlita Dicochea.

November 19th, 7pm: Family Roots and Personal Identity:Genealogy Panel Discussion. Includes descendants of the Briones family. Learn techniques for tracing family roots. Held at the Los Altos Library.

December 8th, 4-6pm: Tamale Cooking Demo + Savory to Sweet Tamale Tasting with CasaQ Hispanic Lifestyle Expert, Darlene Tenes.

More programming is lined up for 2019, including family-friendly events in January and March, interesting talks in February, and a symposium in March.

The Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collectionspermanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.

The Museum and J. Gilbert Smith House are open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. The gardens, outdoor agricultural exhibits and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, go to: www.losaltoshistory.org, email hello@losaltoshistory.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.

Media Contact: Marketing@losaltoshistory.org

Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10, eward@losaltoshistory.org