Protectors of the Past Series: California’s Gold Exhibit and Huell Howser Archive

California’s Gold Exhibit and Huell Howser Archive

The word “archives” conjures images of dusty shelving holding yellowing papers. But what about an archive of Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboards? Or Disney memorabilia? Or an original rivet from the Golden Gate Bridge given to Huell Howser? Orange County is home to archives containing these and other treasures that aren’t just historically significant but entertaining, too. We explored six of these repositories and talked to the folks who oversee them. Here’s what we found.

California’s Gold Exhibit and Huell Howser Archive
1 University Drive, Orange, 714-532-6088, Huell-Howser-Archives

About the Site

A basement-level space  in Chapman University’s Leatherby Libraries, about the size of two classrooms

The Collection

It has more than 900 episodes of the folksy TV host’s PBS shows, including his signature “California’s Gold,” and specials. Howser’s production notes and other papers, memorabilia, and his working library of 1,800 books related to California also are included.

What You Should Know

You’re liable to get teary in front of the permanent exhibit, which includes Howser’s gee-whiz reminiscences. Don’t miss the wraparound wall mural, a timeline tracing Howser’s professional life from his home state of Tennessee to his adopted California, and the massive floor map that highlights places he visited. Come on down! Admission is free, and it’s open to the public.

The Caretaker

Special collections and archive librarian Rand Boyd, above, worked with Howser for several years to clarify and organize materials. Boyd says Howser was different from the image he projected on TV and to his legions of fans. “He could be irascible,” Boyd says. Howser also was extremely private. “His papers are almost entirely in regard to his profession. There’s very little of a personal nature.”

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