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Yosemite Conservancy Funds “Yosemite, The Grand Experiment” Revealing Rarely Seen Artifacts

Yosemite National Park, June 3, 2014 – The new exhibit “Yosemite, The Grand Experiment” at the Yosemite Museum tells the story of how art, tourism and passion helped drive interest in the conservation movement in the mid-1800s leading to the signing of the Yosemite Grant Act in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln to preserve Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
“Yosemite, The Grand Experiment” is made possible by a nearly $150,000 grant from Yosemite Conservancy and is free and open to the public from June 3-October 15, 2014 at the Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley.
“The exhibit is an important opportunity to see rare materials that create a vibrant picture of the period and to understand how the idea to preserve Yosemite germinated,” said Yosemite Conservancy President Mike Tollefson.
The exhibit features the work and stories of scientific and mapping expeditions, including painters and photographers. Their work in the 1800s introduced an east coast audience to the geological features, flora, fauna and inhabitants of Yosemite, and launched the movement to protect the area. On display for the first time in the park will be “Yosemite Falls” by Frederick Butman, an oil on canvas painting from 1859, perhaps the first painting done in Yosemite. It is on loan from a private collection. Visitors will see a huge hand-drawn and painted map by Charles Hoffman from 1867 known as “The Plat Map of Yosemite Valley,” which helped to establish the boundaries and identify features of Yosemite Valley. Also among the many artifacts will be “Souvenir Strings” used by tourists to measure the circumference of giant sequoias, rolled up and dated, including one from 1876 for the Grizzly Giant in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
“This exhibit is a trip back in time to understand the era and the foresight of some to protect Yosemite,” said Tollefson. “For those who see it, it will forge deeper connections to the park and inspire continued stewardship of our natural treasures.”
The exhibit also includes handwritten documents with the elaborate flourishes of a quill pen, early surveying equipment and hand-drawn maps, handbills describing the arduous journey into the Valley, sepia photographs celebrating the reward of having arrived, and exquisite paintings proclaiming the majesty and grandeur of the landscape.
Through the support of donors, Yosemite Conservancy provides grants and support to Yosemite National Park to help preserve and protect Yosemite today and for future generations. The work funded by Yosemite Conservancy is visible throughout the park, from trail rehabilitation to wildlife protection and habitat restoration. The Conservancy is dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience and providing a deeper connection to the park through outdoor programs, volunteering and wilderness services. Thanks to dedicated supporters, the Conservancy has provided more than $81 million in grants to Yosemite National Park. Learn more at or call 1-800-469-7275.
Peter Bartelme, Yosemite Conservancy, 415-664-1503,
Jennifer Miller, Yosemite Conservancy, 415-434-1782,