William Keith and the Battle for Hetch Hetchy

Exhibition Website

In 1907, William Keith accompanied John Muir to Yosemite’s twin valley, Hetch Hetchy. The trip was not a lighthearted hike, but a determined mission to bring the rich colors and epic landscapes back to the Bay Area, where politicians schemed to dam the valley. This trip was a desperate last stand for the preservation of the valley. The plan to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley had brewed for decades, spiced with controversy and corruption. The fate of the valley was a national reflection, preservationist versus conservationist, municipal versus national authority, over the American soul.

This exhibit details the struggle, encompassing a Bay Area history not often told. Come explore how San Francisco’s expansion became central for a national debate; a debate that preoccupied two presidents and birthed the environmental movement. See how the Hetch Hetchy Water System came to exist and how you benefit from the modern marvel today. Finally, join William Keith and John Muir as they hiked to Hetch Hetchy in a mortal struggle for national preservation. You must answer the question, does nature have a price? 

On display will be works by William Keith, including a rare painting from his 1907 trip, accompanied by photographs and documents courtesy of the Sierra Club, Restore Hetch Hetchy, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Exhibition overview from Museum website

  • American
  • Political / Satire / Documentary
  • William Keith

Exhibition Venues & Dates