The Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park is a state park of California, United States, interpreting Native American cultures of the Great Basin and surrounding regions. The museum features exhibits displaying artifacts from various tribes including:
- Ancestral Puebloan
- Nez Perce
- Yuki peoples
- as well as contemporary artists’ work depicting indigenous life and culture.
Located in northern Los Angeles County, adjacent to the city of Santa Clarita, the park was established in 1974 on 2,000 acres (810ha) of land donated by philanthropist Armand Hammer. Prior to its current location, the museum had been housed at two different sites; first in the City of Lancaster then later in the Town of Sierra Vista where it remained until 1970 when it moved to its present location in Newbury Park.
Exhibits are arranged according to cultural themes that cross-cut time periods and geographic space. For example, the theme of water runs throughout history, across landscapes, and among diverse media such as art, food, and technology. Other major topics include relationships with the environment, spirituality, family, community, and sustainable living. There are also displays about historic settlements, crafts, music, and sports & games.
A central feature of the museum’s collection is the “Arboretum,” an outdoor garden arboretum planted primarily with trees native to the region, which includes:
Trees within this arboretum were either planted by the original donors or obtained through donations made to the museum. Another unique aspect of the museum is the Native Plant Arboretum, consisting of approximately 200 species of plants maintained by the non-profit Friends of the Antelope Valley. This arboretum provides educational opportunities for school groups, visitors, and staff. Visitors can learn about plant ecology, how plants have adapted to local environmental conditions, and appreciate the beauty of the flowers and foliage of many rare desert plants.
In summer, the grounds host numerous public events, including traditional ground blessing ceremonies, nature walks, story times, and other programs. The museum has four main exhibit halls covering prehistorical, historical, and contemporary issues facing Indigenous people of the Americas. Prehistorically, there is an entire hall dedicated to paleoindian studies, featuring tools, weapons, jewelry, and other items made by ancient inhabitants of the area. Historical displays cover prehistoric trade routes, settlement patterns, and seasonal migration, as well as early European interaction with Native Americans, slavery, and the conquest of Native lands.
Contemporaneous information covers issues such as identity, government relations, health and wellness, and education. Notable features of these displays include a scale model of the valley created using computerized tomography scans, and a reconstruction of what life was like during the 1848 California Gold Rush, complete with period furnishings and recreated architecture.
An additional gallery space located offsite, called the Interpretive Center, allows video presentations to be shown inside the museum, allowing visitors to see more details than what is possible in the small museum setting. It contains several multi-image slide shows, as well as a research library and archives accessible by appointment only.
- Programs offered include:
- guided tours
- naturalist activities
- children’s days
- special event nights