by Tim Perkins
Lack of museum sites and facilities threatens many private collections.
Richard Davis drove up and down the state of California in his brown pickup truck throughout the 1990s with a big marijuana stalk tied to its shell and a collection of informational displays plus a few historical artifacts, and setting up his Mendocino Mobile Marijuana Museum at hemp rallies, public hearings and, most famously, poised in front of a Madera courthouse where three men were on trial for planting industrial hemp in front of TV news cameras — more than a year before state voters legalized medical marijuana.
Every day as the trial went on, the judge had to instruct the jury not to be influenced by his museum and not to talk about the case or read anything about the case that might be in the display. Davis wasn’t in Madera to talk about the trial but to make sure that everyone who walked by learned something about hemp and the founding of the American republic and how cannabis hemp could save the world.
He continued to make and collect thousands of items over two and a half decades, including a warehouse capacity display of his cannabis museum in West LA that was open at irregular times, by the time he passed away. Now Richard Davis’ fabled museum truck has been lost and the rest of his collection sits in a storage locker with nowhere to go and no one to see it.
Just before he passed away, Davis and his partner, Brenda Kershenbaum, called up long-time friend and fellow activist Chris Conrad who, along with his wife Mikki Norris, had toured the country since the late 1980s and given presentations with Davis, author Jack Herer, Cannabis Action Network, college hemp clubs and countless others. Davis asked Conrad to help preserve his collection and Conrad, who has curated cannabis museums in Amsterdam and Oakland CA and has his own collection, was quick to agree.
“Unfortunately, it’s been slow going ever since,” Conrad recently told theLeafOnline.com. “It opened a whole can of worms and we came to realize that things are approaching a critical point. We know of numerous people who gathered their own collections of memorabilia and artifacts and storing them away, and when they pass on their families might not even know the importance of preserving that history.”
Conrad is now on the Board of the 420 Archive, a non-profit organization, working with other well-known collectors Michael Krawitz Donnie Wirtshafter is on a quest for resources to try to capture, preserve and exhibit some of these lost treasures.
“A lot of us are in the same situation,” said Conrad. “We have collections and archives that need to be cataloged, preserved and given a home where researchers and the public can have access to this amazing and suppressed part of history. Basically, what we need is someone who has a location available or other ways to support this important work before these records are lost forever.”
The 420 Archive is a grant, donor and volunteer supported non-profit organization that does other important work, including preserving cannabis archives and collecting personal oral histories of the cannabis outlaw community, medical marijuana patients, and the reform movement.