When out-of-town visitors come to the Museum, their first question is invariably, “So…where are the camels?” Museum incorporation documents speak only to the Benicia Historical Museum and Cultural Foundation, as it was originally named, and the Benicia Historical Museum as it is currently registered. Our National Register of Historic Places and California Historical Landmark designations refer to latitude and longitude coordinates within the Benicia Arsenal. However, Benicia residents and those who know our military history simply refer to us as “the Camel Barns” or “Camel Barn Museum,” referencing the auction of U.S. military camels here on Museum grounds in 1864.
So we are indeed fortunate to be able to finally say that we now have LOTS of camels (800+) to show our visitors! The Saratoga Springs New York philanthropist Philly Dake, who passed away last year, left her entire collection of camel-related objects to the Museum, to be showcased in our upcoming temporary exhibit, “Camelot! The Philly Dake Camel Collection,” the opening reception for which is scheduled Sunday, March 17 at 1pm. “Keesa,” a two-hump Bactrian camel, will be on hand for viewing and petting with owner Robert Lyon, who will talk about this amazing animal and share his camel-raising experiences with the audience. Entrance for the opening is free, with many other camel-y surprises promised, including a free prize drawing and refreshments. Dake family members are travelling from New York and beyond to tell us about their philanthropist matriarch and to share this fascinating family’s connection to California. The original collection started generations ago, so this should prove to be a marvelously informative and entertaining afternoon for kids and adults, animal lovers and historians, and a must for ALL Benicia residents.