Editor’s Note: Laura Rafaty addresses the St. Helena Star’s editorial board in the following letter.
I am writing in response to your recent Nov. 28, 2019 St. Helena Star Board editorial: "Good news for the St. Helena Historical Society." As a St. Helena resident, I share your enthusiasm and relief that the St. Helena Historical Society has finally found a home, and am most grateful for the wonderful work they do to preserve our city’s history. As Executive Director of the Napa Valley Museum, I want to clarify something in the editorial. You quote yourselves:
"As we put it in a 2014 editorial, Napa has the Goodman Library, Yountville has the Napa Valley Museum, Calistoga has the Sharpsteen Museum, and St. Helena has a bunch of treasures scattered around town in storage containers and garages."
This suggests that the Napa Valley Museum is a repository of Yountville history. In fact, the Napa Valley Museum houses more than 15,000 items in its permanent collection evidencing the history and geology of the entire region, including a number of artworks, objects and artifacts depicting or relating to St. Helena. One of my favorites is a late 1880s or early 1890s painting by St. Helena resident Mrs. Eva Wade Smith; a portrait of her son Oliver N. Smith (1883-1907) with a dog. We were grateful to the wonderful Mariam Hovanesian Hansen of the St. Helena Historical Society for helping us discover the history of this painting; collaboration with the historical society and local experts and researchers has been invaluable to the museum on a wide variety of topics, including our recent exhibitions on the Braceros program and on the history of the Agricultural Preserve.
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I believe your point was that the city deserves a Historical Society located in and focused on St. Helena, and I agree that this is an important project worthy of community support. But it will hopefully be reassuring to our residents, particularly the many St. Helenans who have helped build and maintain our museum, that much of the city's history also resides in the care of the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville.
Laura Rafaty, executive director
Napa Valley Museum