“A Sunnyvale Treasure” . . . those are the words one guest wrote in the 2023 visitors’ register after touring the museum for the first time. Those of us who know the museum are well aware of its position as a jewel in Sunnyvale’s crown, and we feel justifiably proud when first-time visitors see it that way, too. Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum is not just an attractive, “old-fashioned” building collecting pieces of Sunnyvale’s past. It also bears the responsibility for organizing, archiving, researching, and displaying the constant stream of items which find their way to the museum. . . . then putting those pieces together to tell the story of Sunnyvale.
One of the Sunnyvale stories told in 2023 was the history of Lockheed. From June through October, Lockheed memorabilia were on display throughout the museum’s entire upstairs space. The exhibit attracted hundreds of former Lockheed employees and their families. In addition, two museum-sponsored receptions brought the Lockheed retirees together, to renew acquaintances and reminisce about the role Lockheed played in the Valley’s history.
The Victorian Teas also helped to tell the story of Sunnyvale. With the aid of twenty-plus volunteers for each of the six teas, a delightful array of home-baked sweets, savories, and cups of tea were served in a setting which highlighted two more Sunnyvale history stories. At the spring tea, an outstanding assortment of intricate and delicate ladies’ fans from yesteryear were displayed throughout the room.
The December tea theme presented the story of the 1890 wedding of Murphy granddaughter, Mary Genevieve Murphy, and Henry Ward Wright. Newspaper articles and photos from the time plus some of the couples’ wedding gifts, most donated to the museum by the family in the last two years, were on spectacular display in the tearoom and in the adjacent rotating exhibit room. (Note: Don’t miss this fascinating treasure trove, on display upstairs at the museum, until late March.)
Just inside the museum’s entrance a register invites visitors to record their names, cities, email addresses, and impressions of the museum. An examination of the 2023 register revealed the following information about our visitors. A few of their comments follow:
“Great history, well displayed!” “Fascinating Lockheed exhibit! We are a Lockheed family, so it was a trip down memory lane.” “Very interesting museum; very friendly volunteers.” “Really enjoyed the Lockheed exhibit. Also lots of other interesting exhibits. Will have to make a return visit at some point.” A Peruvian visitor wrote: “Wonderful and enlightening experience. I now understand the history of the area and the contribution made to progress. I could connect to the Spanish colony in Peru.”
According to the register, 2,515 guests visited the museum in 2023. That number indicates only those who signed the register, and does not include the several hundred who came for special events such as the Victorian Teas, Speaker Nights, Lockheed receptions, private rentals and the group of twenty-five visitors from Sunnyvale’s Japanese Sister City, Iizuka.
Visitors came from around the world and close to home. We greeted sixty-three global visitors from Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Scotland, Ukraine, New Zealand, Malaysia, Spain, Germany, Japan, Peru, India, China, and Canada. Visitors also hailed from thirty-two of our fifty states and hundreds more visited from Sunnyvale, the local area, and cities and towns throughout California.
A recent addition to the guest register requests that visitors check a box indicating the means through which they heard about the museum (we give our thanks to docent Robert Keahey who came up with the new guest book design). Many visitors discovered the museum on the website, but the majority of the guests checked the category “Other”, explaining they had discovered the museum when they happened to walk or drive by one day, or a neighbor, friend or family member recommended it as a terrific place to visit. Several visitors first heard about the museum from the Senior Center, the Community Center, and the library. Still other visitors read about it in a local history book, or from the Chamber of Commerce. One visitor discovered the museum while he was charging his electric vehicle just outside the museum gate and visited until the charging was completed!
By Laura Kubitz