#9 Antelope Valley Indian Museum

My name is Teri Brewer and I would like to adopt the Antelope Valley Indian Museum.

Antelope Valley Indian Museum during refurbishment - Photograph by Teri Brewer

Antelope Valley Indian Museum during refurbishment (Photograph by Teri Brewer)

Tell us a bit more about yourself

I am a semi retired anthropologist/ folklorist with past museum experience too. Currently I am a freelance filmmaker and consultant in cultural heritage and I work in both the UK and in the US. Recently I have directed a series of short films for the Nevada Arts Council  called Folk Arts Road Trip.

Tell us a bit more about your adopted museum
Antelope Valley Indian Museum, located at Piute Butte near Lancaster, California, USA, had its origins as a vernacular museum, hand built by an artist named Howard Arden Edwards in the 1920’s from found material and re-used theatre set boards. In the early days, Edwards’ own family lived in part of the building, but even after it changed hands several times it continued to house Edwards’  collection of Native American artefacts. California State Parks took it on eventually, and supplemented some additional space to store the state’s Great Basin region artefact collection. The museum is little known, but has a devoted volunteer docent group which has worked with the Getty to improve documentation of materials. This museum is about more than the collections, it incorporates a careful introduction to changing practices in museology and preserves an example of amateur museum making of a very high standard. The museum has been opened seasonally, and there is an admissions fee. After being closed for several years to stablise the original quirky structure, it reopened less than a year ago but is now now facing indefinite closure because of state budget cuts. It is slated for closure in September unless something intervenes.

Why have you chosen to adopt this museum?
I have chosen to adopt this museum because it has been a special place for me where I was able to take many UK students on field trips to think through some of the challenges of a museum like this over the years. I have learned so much from the two dedicated curators who have worked there over the past 15 years. I love this window into the past that shows the early style of a vernacular attraction – a remote roadside museum that survived during the depression on nickel visits and an amateur pageant. And I love its subsequent history.  It is indeed shockingly under-visited despite being fantastic.

Why would you recommend people visit?
This museum is something a bit different – it displays the sometimes eccentric artistic and architectural vision of its founder as a backdrop to Native American collections from coastal California, the Great Basin desert areas as well as reflecting on changes in museums. It’s an unforgettable place for visitors to learn more about California, both Native California and early 20th century, hardscrabble homesteading California and about the Mojave Desert. It really is a fun place for all ages, and children love it. It’s also a great place for international visitors as it’s not far off the routes they take to get to Death Valley and Joshua Tree, two popular tourist attractions.

How would you sum up your museum in three words?
Totally quirky Californiana

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