Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park, Lancaster

4.2
#11 of 13 in Things to do in Lancaster
Group tours are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a reservation. Phone (661) 946-3055 to make a reservation.

The Antelope Valley Indian Museum is a unique and eclectic folk art structure located in northeastern Los Angeles County. The museum houses objects created by the American Indian cultures of the western Great Basin, California, and the Southwest.

History of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum

The Collectors

Howard Arden Edwards, a self-taught artist, became enchanted with the desert scenery around the buttes while visiting the Antelope Valley. He homesteaded 160 acres on Piute Butte and in 1928, Edwards, his wife and teenage son began building a home, which included a special area he called his Antelope Valley Indian Research Museum. In it he displayed his collection of prehistoric and historic American Indian artifacts, which he interpreted in a way that he thought would be instructive and entertaining for visitors. Some of his imaginative descriptions can still be seen in displays in the museum's upper gallery, his former research museum, now called California Hall.

Grace Wilcox Oliver, who had taken some courses in anthropology, purchased the property, reinforced the main building, expanded the physical facilities, and added her own artifacts. She opened the Edwards' house as the Antelope Valley Indian Museum in the early 1940s and operated it intermittently for the next three decades, gradually adding to the collections. Mrs. Oliver's approach to interpreting American Indian materials can be seen in the museum's Southwest Room.

The artifacts represented in the Antelope Valley Indian Museum's electronic catalog show the avid if sometimes idiosyncratic interests of the original collectors. Many of the objects were acquired in the early twentieth century by enthusiasts rather than scholars and before current standards of archaeological provenance and record keeping were established. Most of the objects in the Antelope Valley Indian Museum were undocumented and many are identified as being created by cultural groups that are not the names used by peoples of those cultures. Serious research is currently take place to identify these objects as accurately as possible and revisions are ongoing.

Search the collections online.

The Museum

RocksLocal 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 artifacts. The majority of the museum's collections emphasizes the Southwestern, California and Great Basin Indians, although it contains artifacts from a number of other geographic regions.

In the 1980s, the State Parks designated the museum as a regional Indian museums, representing the cultures of the western Great Basin (east and southeast of the Sierra Nevada Mountains). Material culture from local archaeological discoveries is occasionally added to the collections.

Serious research identifying and assessing the objects in the museum’s collections began in the early 1990s with the beginning of an electronic cataloging project and is ongoing.

The museum has made every attempt to provide reliable identification and descriptions of the artifacts, but cannot guarantee the accuracy of these data.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum is to provide for the education, inspiration and benefit of the people of California as well as those throughout the world with interest in the material culture and lifeways of prehistoric, historic, and contemporary American Indian cultures and the unique folk art represented at the park by

providing programs, projects, and exhibits that educate, enlighten, and inspire people to explore the cultures represented at the Museum and to an ever-widening audience.

supporting research and information dissemination that will provide understanding of the links between these treasures and the peoples who generated them.

preserving the park's natural, cultural and historic resources unimpaired for present and future generations.

Major interpretive themes of the museum are:

the importance of the trade route through the Antelope Valley, which linked and created an interaction sphere for three major culture regions: California, the Great Basin, and the Southwest;

the museum illustrates nearly seventy years of change/evolution in the way American Indian cultural materials are exhibited and interpreted in museums.
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Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park Reviews
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  • We were disappointed that this museum was open so few hours. We didn't get to see it because it was never open during the three days we were in Lancaster. It might be great, but the hours certainly ar...  more »
  • The Museum tells of native American life Buri. This small, but exhibit was very productive. Symbiosis with nature is restored at that time, like there was a twist to.
    View original
  • We love this museum, with its dreamlike cave passages and vintage displays. Definitely stop here, admission is only a few bucks and you won't see other places quite like this. (We don't, however, love...  more »
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  • This is am amazing place to learn and feel the history of California and the native Americans who lived here. I strongly recommend to take the deviation to the museum. We visited with our children (3 and 6 year old) in our way back from Palm Spring to the Bay Area. Kids loved the experience. The visit was super well informed by the excellent guide. Really, a gem. Thanks !
  • I learned a lot of history of American Indian culture. There's many details of history's description. Many art works are amazing. We stayed there for about 2 hours.
  • Well preserved revived Museum. Artifacts showing that the Valley was crossroads of trade among tribes as well as documenting misunderstandings of early study of native American artifacts.
  • Nice inexpensive museum with a knowledgeable staff. More people should go
  • Fantastic collection of artifacts

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