Can you tell us about taking the nugget back to Coloma, California?

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Since the 1860s, the Smithsonian's first find gold nugget from the gold rush has never left the Smithsonian and that's been our policy because it's so delicate, so important, so small, we've not agreed to any loans outside the Smithsonian, let alone outside Washington, D.C., but in 1998, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the first find, January of that year, we relented. Times had changed. Maybe our controls had grown stronger, but we relented and I escorted the gold nugget personally with an armed guard by air to Coloma to the site, almost the very beach of its discovery. It was a thrilling moment in my career here to have that honor to stand with the nugget, to sleep with the nugget in the hotel every night during its few days there. I kept it in a special case at my side at all times until it was in its display case, a huge display case with this little yellow nugget in the center of it during the day right there at the California State Museum in Coloma. What a thrill.


Interview with David Shayt, National Museum of American History, May 31, 2006.