Mission Santa Clara de Asís
The permanent collection's most distinctive feature is the California History Collection. Due to its location next to Mission Santa Clara de Asís, the de Saisset Museum has become the de facto "Mission Museum," housing many of the artifacts associated with the history of the Mission, including holy relics, a cornerstone from the third Mission site that was uncovered in an archaeological excavation, 18th-century santos, and Spanish colonial art.
The California History Collection also includes examples of Spanish colonial woodwork, such as a vargueño, or traveling desk, from 18th-century Mexico and a gothic-style priedieu, essentially a kneeler with a bookstand.
The California History Collection is useful in interpreting and teaching the history of the Santa Clara Valley. Objects related to the unique history of Santa Clara Valley tell the stories of the original Ohlone people, the Spanish colonizers, the Franciscan Missionaries, the Jesuits and students of Santa Clara College, and the people living in this region up through the early 20th century. Artifacts from this collection are on view in the de Saisset Museum's permanent California History exhibition.
The Museum's collection also includes rare, historical ecclesiastical garments and liturgical accessories from Mission Santa Clara that date from the 17th century through approximately 1920. One third of the vestments in the collection are European (French or Spanish) and date from around 1650 through the late 18th century. Approximately half of the vestments were sewn in Mexico from silk brocade and damask imported from China and the Philippines. A portion of these vestments date from the early 20th century, however others were likely brought from Mexico to Alta California by the Mission-founding padres in the 1770s. Funeral vestments dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, thought to have been sewn by the Native people living at Mission Santa Clara, comprise the remaining sixth of the collection.
Docent tours of the permanent California History exhibition are available, free of charge, upon request.
Images, left to right: Selection of liturgical vestments from the de Saisset Museum permanent collection (installation shot), photo courtesy Chuck Barry. Burse, late 18th century, flat silk ground and embroidery and polished cotton lining, 8.25 x 8.25 in., de Saisset Museum permanent collection, A.15.59.17.
Through historical objects and artifacts, the California History Collection tells the history of the area from the pre-contact period to the founding of Mission Santa Clara through the Gold Rush and early years of the College.
Tours of the permanent California History exhibition are available upon request.