‘Reimagining Chico’ offers an archeological trip into the past


Artifacts from Chico’s historical Chinatown are on display in “Reimagining Chico”. Photo credit: Alex Coba

With a glimpse into the past. “Reimagining Chico” is taking observers on a journey back in time through Chico’s history.

Jennifer Rogerson Jennings is a second-year graduate student of the anthropology program, who is showcasing her archaeological finds from three distinctly different neighborhoods in Chico.

Jennings has been researching Chico as part of her graduate work. The whole exhibit took a year to plan and, over the course of that year, she obtained a wide range of artifacts prevalent to her research. Jennings focused on three specific part of Chico where some excavation has been done.

The exhibit explores the boarding houses and the school that later became Chico State. Chico’s Chinatown, which had a sizeable Chinese immigrant population until 1921 and a multi-department student-driven project on Chico State’s south campus neighborhoods.

“Over here we have excavation that was done by the Student Service Center. Several boarding houses were there…we have a lot of artifacts that were found in cisterns outside of those properties,” said Jennings.

The exhibit takes an emphasis on physical material that shows the historical changes.

“It starts in the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, and you can overlay the different neighborhoods to see how the different property market changed over time in the areas described here,” said Jennings.

The focus of Jennings’ own work is digital technology in cultural institutions. She works with digital models of artifacts that don’t just include paintings but true to size digital renderings of an object that can be 3D printed or used in a digital space.

“Its very similar to how models are made for video games and SGI films – having the ability to let that object function in a virtual world and the physical world that expands its ability to connect with its audience,” said Jennings

Jennings expressed the importance of digital archives citing the fire that occurred In Rio de Janerio’s national museum. Over 200 years of work and about 20 million items have believed to have been destroyed. Observers were able to dig through a plot of dirt, where they could find three-dimensional copies of porcelain artifacts that were on display.

“Technology like this can show us how not to lose important cultural heritage material to some extent,” said Jennings. “It’s not the same as the original, but for the most part better than nothing.”

“Reimagining Chico” is currently on display at The Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology and will run until Dec 8.

Alex Coba can be reached at [email protected] or @Alexcoba9 on Twitter.