Writer’s note: The Bowers Museum gave writer, Brandon Nguyen and photographer, Kevin Doan free tickets. They paid an additional $10 each for access to the Disney exhibit.
Legendary Disney artifacts include Dr. Strange’s “Eye of Agamotto” that held the Time Stone in “Avengers: Infinity War” and the glass slipper from “Cinderella.” These iconic items that we grew up watching touring across the world, have now arrived in Orange County at Bowers Museum. This is part of the limited time Disney exhibit, “All That Glitters: The Crown Jewels of the Walt Disney Archives” that allows visitors to reminisce on their favorite movies.
The Bowers Museum has come a long way since its opening in 1936. Vice President of External Affairs Kelly Bishop noted her experience ever since joining the Museum four years ago and the Museum’s progression. From starting out as a small local museum in Santa Ana, it has now adapted to the 21st century for new ways of viewership from all across the country.
“In my [relatively] short time here, the Museum has grown tremendously in that we had to adapt quickly to unprecedented times during a global pandemic,” Bishop said. “It challenged our old ways of thinking about what a museum could be and forced us to a new digital platform which allowed a more universally accessible and global reach.”
Past the entrance of the Ruth Seigle Bell Tower (South Entrance), visitors are greeted in the Key Courtyard, a garden with lush vegetation. Instantly, they’ll see the Mrs. Bowers’ Memorial Foundation that holds a statue representing a Spanish conquistador and on the right, a painting of an indigenous tribe. A theme that visitors will see is that the Bowers Museum represents all aspects of Orange County’s history.
First coming inside, the “Artist Legacy: the Ann and Bill Cullen Collection” is the first exhibit visitors will see. These paintings come from the estate of Ann and Bill Macomber Cullen, connoisseurs of the arts in Southern California. Ann Cullen was famous for her career as an actress starring in hit shows such as “Lux Video Theatre.” Bill Cullen was a renowned gameshow host in the iconic “The Price is Right.” The Cullens’ paintings depict a watercolor painting of lifestyle in New York City during the 1960s and a cottage in California.
Walking out of the “Artist Legacy” exhibit and before the Disney exhibit, visitors will enter a hallway that holds the “Sacred Realms” exhibit. It holds nine different paintings by a Buddhist monk, Shashi Dhoj Tulachan. Tulachan made these paintings through the practice of Thangka, a Tibetan Buddhist tradition to help monks meditate in order to achieve enlightenment.
Straight ahead lies the Disney exhibit that features over 400 artifacts that have been used in Disney movies. Included is the “Ice Crown” worn by Jodis the White Witch in the legendary movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia.” There are also artifacts symbolic in Disney’s history such as the “Brooch Set” worn by Disney Princesses at the Disney Resort, commemorating Disney’s 50th Anniversary.
After the Disney exhibit, there’s a small hallway that features the “Ceramics of West Mexico” exhibit. This exhibit holds pre-Columbian art that symbolizes daily life of the West Mexicans now today, states of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco. The left picture is a ceramic sculpture of a Colima dog, which was a common pet and believed to be loyal throughout the afterlife. The right picture is a clay structure that is believed to hold religious importance.
Once past the “Ceramics of West Mexico,” visitors walking down the hall will enter into “the First Californians” exhibit that features the lifestyle of Southern California’s first indigenous tribes. On the left photo, is a twined water bottle which was part of the Chumash culture, an indigenous tribe that lived in Cuyama Valley from around 1500-1700 AD. The right photo is from the women’s basketry hats that were woven from plant fibers and from the Hupa tribe, an indigenous tribe from Northwestern California.
In the “California Legacies: Missions and Ranchos” exhibit, there is a wide array of colonist history and the Mexicans that originally lived there before. The left photo is of Pío Pico and his family, the last Mexican governor of California before California was annexed into the United States following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The right photo is of Saint Anthony the Great holding the infant Jesus, who was known for a holy ability of helping people find lost things.
Back around from the North entrance, visitors enter a large hall that has the entrance to three exhibits. One of the three is the “Ancient Arts of China: A 5,000 Year Legacy” that has collected art from the Shanghai Museum. On the left, is a Scholar’s Study replicated after what scholars during the Ming Dynasty. The Scholar Study was a place of focus for scholars to practice calligraphy, study philosophy and hold what were known as the “Four Treasures of the Scholar’s Studio.” The right image is a men’s semi-formal court robe known as a jifu and part of the Qing dynasty.
The second exhibit in the North entrance hall is the “Spirits and Headhunters: Art of the Pacific Islands.” This exhibit holds art from Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia and with artifacts from large to small tribes. The left picture is a suit of armor and swords made from shark teeth, tapa cloth, human hair and more. This is from the Kiribati Culture during the 1930s used in wars and ceremonial duels between different villages. The right picture is a necklace of human teeth found in Fiji, Polynesia during the 18th to 19th century. It is believed to be worn by members who held high status or traded as a prestigious item.
The third exhibit in the North entrance hall is the “Gemstone Carvings: The Masterworks of Harold Van Pelt” exhibit. It is a collection of Harvold Van Pelt’s work, in which he spent over 35 years mastering how to polish the stones in order to bring out their translucency and colors. The left image is of an Australian chrysoprase that has been polished down into the form of a candlestick. The right image is of amethyst that has been carved into a cup with 24 flutes.
While I can only show so much through an article, the full experience can be found at 2002 Main Street Avenue. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets cost $12 for students, $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $10 for children under 10 years old. There is also a digital experience that can be found through their digital guide. While the Disney exhibit is scheduled to end on June 19, 2022, Bishop expressed that the museum won’t stop continuing to host new and exciting exhibits.
“We continue to honor and celebrate the world’s greatest arts and cultures and that includes a strong platform for local history,” Bishop said. “Be sure to always see what featured exhibitions are coming up next, we’ll be opening a tremendous featured exhibition Feb. 12 entitled ‘Everest: Ascent to Glory,’ which will run concurrently through August.”