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Courthouse Museum to present 'Past Tents: The Way We Camped' March 17

The Merced County Courthouse Museum said it was opening "Past Tents: The Way We Camped," a humorous excursion exploring camping in California from post-Gold Rush times to the mid-1900s.

The exhibition opens March 17.

Through three exhibit themes — “Round the Campground,” “Hitting the Trail,” and “Open Roads, Open Fires” — visitors enjoy contemporary prints of rare historic photographs and objects from the collections of the California Historical Society and the Bancroft Library.

Replica tents are packed with curious vintage gear and long-lost camping tips suggest simple remedies for sore feet (as long as you pack along some tallow).

"This exhibition just makes you happy and brings out that desire to get back to nature and really camp," said one museumgoer while peeking into a tent.

Merced County Courthouse Museum invites campers of all ages to enjoy the exhibition beginning Thursday, March 17. At the opening reception at 5 p.m., camping enthusiast Herb Wood will sign his new book, "Camping for Beginners." In addition, Boy Scout Troop 88 will demonstrate their camping skills.

Early camping was an enterprise of independence, simplicity and conviviality. It offered, according to a museum news release, a change of pace, the splendor of scenery and an opportunity to be close to nature, escaping the trappings of society for a time. Camping still offers that respite, and rejuvenation and "Past Tents" encourage visitors to pack up the tent and sleeping bags and enjoy the beauty of California's natural environment.

"Past Tents" is based on the book of the same name by Susan Snyder, published by Heyday Books and the Bancroft Library in 2006. Snyder, librarian at the Bancroft, spent years exploring the library's stacks and attics discovering California’s treasures. The museum invited residents “for this enchanting adventure in a bygone era.”

"Past Tents: The Way We Camped" was produced by the California Historical Society and the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. The traveling tour was organized by the California Exhibition Resources Alliance (CERA).

For more information about the exhibit, please call the Courthouse Museum at (209) 723-2401 or visit