Pacific World Header
pacific map
Manila Galleon Porcelain plate

Pacific World

The History that Binds Us to the Sea

February 26 – June 2, 2019


The Pacific Ocean: From ancient voyagers who spread throughout a watery world, to the Spanish treasure ships known as Manila Galleons, to the nineteenth century traders who plied the coast from Sonoma County to Peru, it is a world unto itself. Explore the Great Ocean from a different perspective in Pacific World– a perspective where California is the eastern edge of the Pacific as often as it is the more familiar symbol of the American west. Featuring a collection of sixteenth century Chinese porcelain traded across the ocean, art and objects of Oceania, and artifacts related to the Sonoma Coast, the exhibition traces the influences of the Pacific World on the history of Sonoma County and the North Bay Area.


Spanish Treasure Ships 

Pacific World will include a collection of Ming Chinese porcelain, and other objects, that were an important part of the world’s first sustained, globalized trade aboard the Manila Galleons. The Galleons were the Spanish treasure ships that crossed the Pacific beginning in 1565, transferring silver and gold of the Americas and bringing back finished goods from Asia, passing along the Northern California coast.


Legacy of Empires

Sonoma County’s nineteenth century history is marked by the confluence of competing international interests on the Pacific Coast, from the presence of the Russian coastal outpost of Fort Ross, to the last in the string California missions, and the intense interest of the United States. Learn how present day Sonoma County became a point of convergence- where east met west- in rivalries over the Pacific.


Labor, Immigration, and Trade

The Pacific is constantly in motion. Ocean currents have helped carry goods from Sonoma County to different parts of the world, including lumber, stone, and agricultural produce. Those same currents have brought immigrants, laborers, temporary visitors, and permanent settlers. The exhibition explores the constant movement that links us to the wider Pacific world.

The Pacific World exhibition also features a collection of antique maps of Asia and the Pacific, objects from nineteenth century shipwrecks including the Frolic and the Lammermoor, as well as a children’s gallery with an interactive game and ship model.


This exhibition is dedicated to Edward Von Der Porten (1933-2018), a maritime scholar who devoted a tremendous amount of time and knowledge to the Museum of Sonoma County since its very beginnings. He had a deep and abiding interest in the stories of the Pacific. He will be missed.


This exhibition is generously sponsored by Ann Sebastian, Lawrence and Jacqueline Simons, County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors, Drake Navigators Guild and Friedman’s Home Improvement.