Clarke Historical Museum Director Participates in California State Parks Project – Times-Standard

Katie Buesch, executive director and curator of the Clarke Historical Museum, recently brought an early redwood curator to life through a new California State Parks hologram project.

For the project, first-person interpreters — people claiming to be historical figures — tell a brief story of who they are and the role they played in the history of a specific place, Buesch said.

Eventually, a collection of these recorded holograms will be accessible through a California State Parks app, so that when one holds their phone at certain trailheads, markers, or plaques, they will be able to see the hologram and hear that person’s story.

Buesch said, “I ‘became’ Laura Perrott Mahan, an influential local lady who was active in the early years of the redwood preservation movement. One of his most notable stances in the fight against the redwood was to literally jump on a redwood stump and stop the loggers from cutting down more trees. It was in 1924.

Mahan (1867-1937) also bonded with local people, visiting dignitaries and men of power, Buesch said, and took them into the forests “to experience the airy space of the old forest, with the idea that it would inspire action. … It certainly is.

She added: “Through this type of work, as well as networking with women’s clubs, civic entities, garden clubs and more, Laura was a conservation powerhouse by being able to connect the people by a common experience and the inspiration of the place to make a real difference. At the time of her death, she had been instrumental in saving nearly 30,000 acres of redwoods.

Buesch — who was contacted by California State Parks to participate — said she was excited about the project because she had previously worked for California State Parks at one of the parks Mahan helped build: Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Katie Buesch, executive director and curator of the Clarke Historical Museum, is pictured in the costume she wore while portraying Laura Perrott Mahan circa 1924 in a California State Parks hologram project. (Submitted)

“The trail where the hologram is accessible is one of my favorite trails in the park, mainly because I understood why the landscape looked like it and the great story that came with it, which is the story I tell in the hologram project,” she said.

To prepare to “become” Mahan, Buesch had to do some research, particularly regarding the types of styles that were popular in the mid-1920s. (Mahan was 57 in 1924.)

“Historical fashion is great fun to work with when you think about how people would present themselves, maybe including older fashion trends mixed in with new ones,” Buesch said. “Laura grew up in the Victorian era, so I’m sure some of those sensibilities affected the way she dressed in her later years, but she also may have embraced the new trends with ease.

“We don’t really have any pictures of Laura that I know of from her later years,” she said, “so it was guesswork and research to come up with the outfit (that I was wearing). I told his story in costume, and it was a lot of fun.

California State Parks provided Buesch with a general script and allowed him to develop the text.

“I relied a lot on ‘Who Saved the Redwoods?’ by Laura and James Wasserman? The unsung heroines of the 1920s who fought for our redwood forests.’ It’s a great read about a typically understudied part of the redwood preservation movement and their book shines a light on some truly amazing women like Laura Perrott Mahan,” Buesch said.

While the hologram project focused primarily on Mahan’s redwood work, she was also involved in several other community-oriented activities.

“(She) worked to raise funds for veterans, was very involved with the local women’s club, which worked outside of redwood conservation to improve the lives of women and children, and after her death , donated money to start a UC Davis scholarship fund in her name for Humboldt residents, which still exists today, and donated to various local organizations like the YWCA. … She was also a lifelong artist and enjoyed painting landscapes, which likely affected her view of the world and her conservation work.

For more information about the Clarke Historical Museum, go to www.clarkemuseum.org. To learn more about Mahan and other women involved in redwood preservation, Buesch recommends the book “Who Saved the Redwoods?” The Unsung Heroines of the 1920s Who Fought for Our Redwood Forests,” available at the Clarke Historical Museum, 240 E St., Eureka and other local bookstores.


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