The Tuolumne County Museum & History Research Center is located in a historic building which was an old county jail from 1866 to 1961. Now it is home to the Tuolumne County Historical Society and Tuolumne County Genealogical Society. The Museum has exhibits of gold mining, ranching, westward movement, pioneer firearms and historic photos highlighting different areas in the county.
By 1960, the Tuolumne County jail, built in 1866, was obsolete and a new jail was constructed one block north. At the request of the Society, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors designated the old jail as the Tuolumne County Museum and the Society became stewards of the County History Collection. Board committees were busy with planning for the conversion of the jail to a museum, and looking forward to the day when a library and research center could be added. Remodeling was under way by January 1962 and finally completed in 1965.
The old kitchen of the sheriff or jailer’s family was converted into a turn-of-the-century office, which was originally occupied by the Chamber of Commerce and now home to the Tuolumne County Genealogical Society. Reproductions of many old photos, antiques and costumed mannequins are on exhibit depicting the six geographical regions of the county, “Our Towns” – Sonora, Crossroads of Tuolumne County; North to Columbia; Jamestown and the Way West; South of the River; Out to Tuolumne and Up in the Hills. Other displays contain information on the overland trails across the Sierra Nevada between 1841 and 1860 and pioneer firearms. A visit to the jail provides an overview of the Gold Rush and Tuolumne County’s history and heritage.
The History Research Center is home to the Tuolumne County History Collection, and a library on local history, which is available for use by scholars and history buffs. Complied beginning in 1915, the Collection’s varied inventory includes over 35,000 photographs of local people and places, vintage clothing and household items. In addition, the Collection includes business and industry related artifacts, records relating to landmarks, commerce, railroads, logging, mining, water development, communities and geography.