The Museum of Ventura County is preparing excitedly for the Grand Re-Opening of its galleries after being closed since September 1. A fundraising gala, “Splendors of the Museum” will be held on Saturday, January 7, followed by a community celebration—free and open to all— on Sunday, January 8 from noon to 5 pm. The community celebration begins with an opening ceremony at 12:30 pm, followed by free tours throughout the afternoon of the museum’s new galleries. Two new exhibits, “Masterworks of the Museum” and “Really Awful People, featuring the George Stuart Historical Figures” will debut.
The rebirth of this century-old institution came from a desire to give residents throughout Ventura County more access to their history, and to provide a more participatory and exciting experience for all visitors from the moment they enter the museum.
Under the new direction of interim executive director and consultant Elena Brokaw, it is no longer business as usual. “As I toured this treasured cultural resource from top to bottom, I immediately saw one core problem—not enough gallery space. We needed to increase our ability to share more of the history of Ventura County with visitors and residents. Our 104-year-old collection comprises more than 31,000 historical objects, and it belongs to all of us. Although it can never be displayed all at one time, the lure of “what is in the basement” is so strong. We wanted to do something about that.”
Accordingly, exhibition space has been nearly doubled by reinventing spaces, such as the lobby, courtyard and museum store as galleries where more artifacts could be installed and stories could be told. Changes literally begin at the front door, where guests are greeted by historic photos, large-scale objects and digital installations covering previously blank walls. This space is now meant to “set the stage”, telling visitors where they are and what they can expect.
Even the way visitors proceed through the museum is different. Instead of entering through the museum store, they will proceed from the lobby into the outdoor courtyard space; they are literally re-directed into a more welcoming, expansive and chronological adventure. This space features a historic timeline mural, created by local artist Ryan Carr, which transports visitors back in time. Also in this space are citrus trees evoking the Mission Orchard, which existed on that very site 200 years ago.
Visitors will discover many artifacts and works of art that haven’t been seen for years, which have been researched and revealed by the museum’s curators. The inaugural exhibition, “Masterworks from the Museum’s Collection” will pair works of art with artifacts and photos that convey the proud heritage and important stories of individuals and families throughout the region.
The beloved Chumash gallery, an essential field trip stop for 3rd- and 4th- grade students throughout Ventura County, has been transformed into a more vibrant and educational environment with the installation of large-scale graphics, authentic artifacts and interactive stations providing hands-on experiences for kids. This re-invigorates the museum’s popular education program, led by a devoted Docent Council, which serves nearly 5,000 schoolchildren per year.
A new interactive gallery called “Is it Art?” brings forth some of the more unusual items from the collection and invites visitors into a collective discussion of what constitutes a work of art.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM
The Museum of Ventura County, located in historic downtown Ventura at 100 E. Main Street, was founded in 1913. Its first home was in the County Courthouse building, now Ventura’s City Hall. www.venturamuseum.org
The museum’s collection of artifacts began with pioneer Cephas Bard, a doctor who accepted Chumash baskets, trinkets and personal items from indigenous patients in lieu of payment for his services. Bard was a beloved doctor from Pennsylvania who relocated to the California Coast with his brother Thomas, who became a U.S. Senator from California.
The collection has grown to over 31,000 artifacts, which includes Chumash-era objects and implements, as well examples of contemporary clothing, ephemera, fine art and photography from the past century. The Museum of Ventura County’s collection reflects life in Ventura County, and includes items from every city in the County.
One of the most well-known features of the Museum is its renowned Research Library, housing a collection of more than 150,000 documents, books, maps and historic photographs and periodicals.