The Springs Museum Proposal

The Springs Museum
Michael Acker 2020

“It’s all about paying attention.” S. Sontag

Please allow me to share with you my proposal for an exhibition entitled The Springs Museum.

I’m proposing an exhibit as a museum-within-a-museum or gallery. Specifically, a museum of history, natural history, art, and simple observation, focusing on the communities of Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, Agua Caliente, and El Verano, California. The Springs Museum is dedicated to a place, in all its mundane and extraordinary details.

“A starting point, for artists or for anyone else, might be simply learning to look around where you live now…” Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local

It currently exists, in part, as the website, I intend to bring the site and blog posts into the “real world,” along with my related art, documents, artifacts and ephemera.

My artwork from the Valley of the Moon Main Stem project can be seen here:

Part of the point is to simply collect: objects, photographs, stories, etc. The act of collecting, cataloging, and contemplating the collection itself becomes a work of art.  In a review of  a 2009 exhibition of Walker Evan’s postcard collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, J. Gabriel Boylan observed

“While the postcards clearly resonate with Evan’s photography, it’s worth asking whether the collection should be understood not as an archive of source texts but as an artistic  project in it own right.”

As critic Barry Swabsky said in the Nation Magazine in 2014,

“… even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history out of their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning themselves into historians, archivists, even collectors of a sort.” 

Observing and collecting also help to underline the point that “history” is always with us and that we all can be historians and archivists.

The Springs Museum Project is conceived in the spirit of redefinition espoused by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, originally called the L.A. County Historical and Art Museum, which includes in it’s collection T-Rex fossils and Charlie Chaplin’s shoes from “City Lights.” From their mission statement: “The mission of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is to inspire wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.”

“As Ellen Dissanayake has observed, the function of art is to “make special”; as such, it can raise the “special” qualities of place embedded in everyday life, restoring them to those who created them…” Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local.

The body of my art about the place, is an artifact of the place; my art can be seen as a roadside attraction, as a “bottle village.” It is an obsessive collection of images that I transform into an obsessive set of artworks, similar to the method of Teressa Prisbrey, the creator of Bottle Village in Simi Valley, CA.

“Bottle Village began as a practical need to build a structure to store Grandma Prisbrey’s pencil collection (which eventually numbered 17,000) and a bottle wall to keep away the smell and dust from the adjacent turkey farm. However, it was her ability to have fun and infuse wit and whimsy into what she made, which over time became the essence of Bottle Village. Practicality alone would not explain The Leaning Tower of Bottle Village, the Dolls Head Shrine, car-headlight-bird-baths, and the intravenous-feeding-tube-fire screen, a few examples of her delightfully idiosyncratic creations.” From the Bottle Village website.


These materials will be presented as framed wall works, printed reproductions, and 3-dimensional objects in covered cases.

1. Up to ten collages from the Main Stem project with captions featuring detailed historical information. These are panoramic pieces approximately 40”x12” each. See examples below. See more examples here:

2. Individual blog posts that have been produced as accordion folded books that can be housed in vitrines or wall mounted.  See examples below and links.

3. Copies of my database of historic documents produced as a book. This Filemaker database now contains 841 images, including postcards, photographs, maps, brochures, and matchbook covers. Viewers would be invited to write in comments. Pedestal mounted, See examples below.

4. All 477 photographs of Highway 12 in the Springs I took in 2008, copies of which I gave to the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and to the Sonoma County Library. To be borrowed from the Society or library. The open box would be displayed in a vitrine along with a few of the pages outside the box. See examples below.

5. Discussion of native American use of hot springs and their life in the Rancho Agua Caliente. Research in progress.

6. “Neighborhood Phenomena” (as wall mounted photo enlargements.)

simple observation such as:

            Trees and how they interact with the built environment.

            Animals and plants commonly observable.

                        These observations could be taken past the “simple” via                                                 consultation with local naturalists.

            Built environment in all its variations.

            Signs, formal and informal.

            Cultural events such as impromptu Day of the Dead altars. See


7. Historic walking tour map-could be a give-away. See examples below.

More content about the Hispanic community and the Native American presence, still in progress.

The Lure of the Local, Lucy Lippard
The New Press, 1997

Past, Present, Futurism
Barry Schwabsky, the Nation April 2014

The Eye That Collects: On Walker Evans
J. Gabriel Boylan
The Nation Magazine, March 23, 2009

The Bottle Village website

List of Examples:

  1. Main Stem collage #19 Revision 1. Inkjet on watercolor and pastel papers, watercolor, pastel. 45”x20”. 2020 The caption contains a description of the original bridge, built in 1923, the sidewalk project of the 2000s for which the new bridge was built, and the importance of the creek it spans.
  2. Accordion book “Dick Dawley’s Fence.” From a video interview, 2020. 11”x110”.
  3. Photo database book produced for a show at Sonoma Community Center in 2014.
  4. Pages from archive of photographs I took of Sonoma Highway in Boyes Hot Springs in 2008.

5. T. M. Leavenworth’s plat for his land claim in the Rancho Agua Caliente which became the Springs, overlain with modern street map.

6.  Jack Baker’s Museum of Neighborhood Phenomena art installation, Seattle, 1977. for larger image:

7. Historic walking tour map of central Boyes Hot Springs.

8. Through 11. Examples of Neighborhood Phenomena from Boyes Hot Springs.