Tulare museum reopens, celebrates Mathias legacy

Tulare Historical Museum offers first in-person exhibit since the pandemic began with “Bob Mathias: Olympic Hero, Hometown Legend”

TULARE – It’s seems odd to celebrate the Summer Olympics in an odd year, but 2020 was anything but even keeled. In recognition of the 2020 Summer Olympics being held next month in Tokyo, the Tulare Historical Museum will spotlight one of the greatest Olympians of all time, who is also a native son of Tulare.

Fresh off its grand reopening ribbon cutting on June 17, the museum is presenting a historical display in its rotating gallery titled, Bob Mathias: Olympic Hero, Hometown Legend.

The museum’s Depot Room will be displaying some of the more hidden personal effects and artifacts related to Tulare’s own Olympic Hero, Bob Mathias. His improbable comeback win in the decathlon at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London made Mathias the youngest gold medalist in a track and field event at age 17. He followed it up with a record setting performance at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, winning by an astounding 912 points, making him the first person to successfully defend an Olympic decathlon title.

After retiring from competition, Mathias found brief success in film and television before serving four terms in Congress. He later returned to his roots and became the first director of the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Mathias died in 1996 in Fresno after battling cancer.

The display marks Tulare Historical Museum’s (THM) first in-person exhibit since the start of the pandemic. Bob Mathias: Olympic Hero, Hometown Legend, will be on view from mid-June to mid-August. Exhibit coordinator Emily Engelsgaard said Mathias’ legacy will continue to inspire future generations as he was from a small town, had anemia as a child and went on to not only accomplish his athletic dreams but those that came after the Olympics.

Bob Mathias’ history is put on full display at the Tulare History Museum. This is the museum’s newest in-person exhibit since the pandemic began in March 2020.Photo courtesy of Tulare Historical Museum

“Bob Mathias’ legacy extends far more significantly than here in Tulare or the greater Tulare area. It is a legacy that inspires any young athlete or young dreamer to persevere,” Engelsgaard said. “Tulare is proud of their small-town Olympic hero, and his story will continue to reach people of all ages for years to come.”

As a bonus, THM’s Heritage Art Gallery will feature an exhibit titled, “Vibrant Luminosity: The World of Watercolor,” in honor of World Watercolor Month in July.

“Vibrant Luminosity: The World of Watercolor, is an exhibit that aims to immerse the viewer in the wondrous medium of watercolor, with its superior range, versatility, and ability to exude lightness,” the museum wrote.

It also features the work of local artists, Donna Coleman, Wanda Cottengim, Laurie Gorman, Beth Holmes, Jack Pease, Nancy Randell, Nonnie Rhoades and Christy Stapleton. The virtual exhibit is on display now through July. Both exhibits can be viewed on THM’s web site at www.tularehistoricalmuseum.org, YouTube channel and social media pages.

To see the Bob Mathias exhibit in person, the Tulare Historical Museum is located at 444 W. Tulare Ave. in Tulare. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month. For more information, call 559-686-2074 or visit www.tularehistoricalmuseum.org.

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