History of the Museum of Ventura County and Current Renovation Projects

The Museum of Ventura County celebrates, preserves and interprets the art, history and culture of Ventura County, the California Channel Islands and the surrounding region through collections, exhibitions, events, education programs, publications and its research library, and serves as a gathering place for the community.

The Museum first opened in 1913 in the newly built Ventura County Courthouse (now Ventura City Hall). Known as the Pioneer Museum, its collections of artifacts and curios were the legacy of Dr. Cephas Bard, a Pennsylvania doctor who came to Ventura after the Civil War. A compassionate man with wide-ranging interests, Dr. Bard accepted historical objects in lieu of cash payment for his services. Priceless Chumash, Spanish and Mexican-American objects from his collection are on display in the galleries today.


In 1977, the Museum moved to its 15,000 square foot building on Ventura’s Main Street, near historic Mission San Buenaventura. The Museum is currently at work on a major project to expand its facility in Ventura by adding a public plaza, a pavilion for meetings and special events, expanded galleries and store, an education center with children’s garden, a new lobby and great hall, new library and space for storage and maintenance of the collections. Total project cost is estimated at $12 million, with over $7 million raised to date.

On this 4th of July, from 11 am to 6 pm, the public is invited to celebrate the Museum’s new Martin V. and Martha K Smith Pavilion and new Front Plaza. The completion of the first part of our two-phased renovation at 100 East Main Street in Ventura also means that on Saturday, July 3, we will reopen at that address with new exhibits, leaving our present temporary location at 89 S. California Street.

The re-opened Museum will include a new Plaza with a water feature and open columned entrance facing Main Street, the new state-of-the-art Martin V. and Martha K. Smith Event Pavilion, a renovated tour lobby, new bathrooms, and a new parking lot. The Pavilion will be used for lectures, programs and a variety of Museum and outside events; it is capable of seating 200 for dinner, with the option to tent the front plaza for an additional 140 guests. The original museum building will be revitalized with reconfigured exhibit areas and the reopening of the Smith Gallery of George Stuart Historical Figures®.
Phase two of the renovation, which includes new galleries, an education center, expanded library, new Museum Store, expanded collections storage, and offices, will begin when the museum has secured funding at a level that ensures completion. Visit www.venturamuseum.org to learn more and to learn how to help support this project!