Antelope Valley Indian Museum
The Antelope Valley Indian Museum in the western Mojave Desert is two historical entities in one. The structure is a one-of-a-kind example of early American folk art which houses a splendid collection of Native American arts and artifacts from many North American cultures. The museum is operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
This unique structure was built by Howard Arden Edwards, a self-taught artist and collector of American India art and artifacts, who fell in love with the scenery among the buttes of the western Mojave while visiting Antelope Valley in the 1920s. He envisioned a home nestled among the rock formations of the desert and began homesteading 160 acres on Piute Butte in 1928, convinced that it would make an excellent accommodation for his "research museum."
Edwards, his wife and teenage son completed their Swiss Chalet-style dream home in 1932. It incorporated an entire natural rock formation within its interior and is painted inside and out with brightly colored American Indian motifs, designs and murals. The top of the interior rock formations serves as the floor. Museum visitors actually climb on these rocks as they go from picturesque, main Kachina Hall to California Hall upstairs.
In 1939, the Edwards family sold the property to Grace Wilcox Oliver, a student of anthropology, who felt it would be a perfect setting for her own native American Indian collection. Oliver remodeled the main building, converting all the living quarters into exhibit rooms and added her own artifacts. She opened the Edwards' house as the Antelope Valley Indian Museum in the early 1940 and operated it for the next three decades, continuously adding to the collections.
Local support for the acquisition of the property resulted in the State of California purchasing the museum in 1979, with Grace Oliver donating all of the museum's contents. In The 1980s, the State Parks system designated the museum as one of its Regional Indian Museums -- this one to represent cultures of the western Great Basin (east and southeast of the Sierra Nevada Mountains). The majority of the museum's collections emphasize the Southwestern, California and Great Basin Indians, although it contains artifacts from a number of other geographic regions as well. The Indian Museum has been open to the public and scheduled tour groups since 1982.
Exhibits in the museum included artifacts from 8.000 to 1,000 years old. The Kachina and Southwest rooms downstairs feature the Southwest Region, while the California Room upstairs houses artifacts from California native cultures. Back downstairs, the former kitchen and dinette areas are now the Great Basin and Antelope Valley rooms, housing regional exhibits.
Other attractions at the museum include a self-guided nature trail which introduces visitors to native plants and animals in a 30-minute walk. Exhibits in Joshua Cottage, adjoining the main structure, feature a Touch Table where everyone can experience food preparation and fires starting techniques. It also has a gallery/theater where on weekends October through June, the museum offers a variety of educational programs.
Back in the main house, the sun room/library has been converted into a gift shop operated by Friends of the Antelope Valley Museum (FAVIM). The shop contains authentic Native American hand-crafted jewelry, kachina dolls, pottery, rugs and a large selection of publications for all ages on Native American history and culture are available.
FAVIM sponsors educational and interpretive programs at the museum, including docent-guided tours, nature walks, films, video tapes, lectures, craft demonstrations by Native Americans and an annual celebration featuring Indian artisans and dancing. FAVIM also offers a training courses for all who would like to volunteer their services to the California Department of Parks and Recreation -- either on a weekend or during the week.
$3.00 Adults, $1.50 children
Open 11 AM to 4 PM weekends only. Closed July and August
Antelope Valley Indian Museum is 15 miles east of Lancaster, California on Ave. M between 150th and 170th streets. Travel east via Ave. K from Hwy 14.
15701 E. Avenue M
Lancaster, California 93534
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