Gold Rush Miner Journals

spring 2010


One of the more unique visitor experiences in the Gallery of California History at OMCA is this set of journals chronicling accounts of people coming to California in the 1850s in search of their fortune. Bound in leather with gold leaf stamping, each volume presents first-person quotes mixed with artifacts and ephemera from the period.

I served as the creative lead on the project, working closely with the curators in every aspect from concept to narrative, image selection to design, production to installation.

Creative Direction  |  Identity + Mark  |  Graphic Design  |  Editorial Design + Layout



The titling follows the typography standards set for the entire Gold Rush section of the gallery, utilizing authentic wood type samples from the Walden Font Company.

These four journals are designed in the scrapbook style of the "collaged universe" style that I developed with the core team. The are affixed to an artifact vitrine collar in the open position through their Chicago Screw posts.

Each volume is wrapped with a custom fabric endpaper, accurate to the period.

There is a certain intimacy in using actual letters, notes, photographs, and other ephemera to tell stories from the past. However, there are also limitations. Although we had a wealth of personal handwritten correspondence to draw upon, general readability, in addition to ADA exhibit guidelines, prevented the use of these samples.

Instead, period typefaces were spec'd, again from the Walden Font Company. A few different scripts based on actual handwriting samples from the late nineteenth century completed the look, one for each of the four volumes.

Each book was beautifully bound in leather and stamped in gold leaf by The Key.

Yes, those are actual pieces of gold from the Museum's collections that were photographed.

Numerous daguerreotypes from the Museum's collections were photographed an incorporated into the designs. In most cases they were recolored or given new frame boxes. 

The sheer number of posters, maps, broadsides, and other antique printed works at our disposal was staggering.

No, that lock of lady's hair wasn't 1850s vintage; it was generously supplied by one of our project managers.

All of the page foxing, coffee and tea stains, ink blots, and other marks of age were hand-rendered onto paper samples and scanned in. No two page spreads are alike. In some cases, pages were printed out, torn, wrinkled, and then rubbed around in the dirt only to be scanned in again. This type of aging really can't be faked digitally; it has to be done for real in order to feel right. 

The result is a hyper-authenticity that transports the museum visitor directly into those times past.