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The Antelope Valley Indian Museum, Lancaster

Categories: Specialty Museums, Museums
Inspirock Rating:
4.3/5 based on 20+ reviews on the web
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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  • This is a small Native American Museum (in the middle of nowhere but worth the trip) -- the artifacts are very interesting and they sell hand made Native American jewelry. 
  • This Indian Museum has been a part of my life from childhood Back in 1953 I went here with my Cub Scout den. Form that time until I left CA I made several visits here. More recently it was just as I r...  read more »
  • This is a great place to take out of town visitors. It is inexpensive, and interesting inside and out. We took our 80+ parents and they really enjoyed it. 
  • Very cool displays, liked it better when it wasn't owned by government but still cool
  • Went for the first time on a field trip for my sons school. The great room is amazing with every inch covered in something for the Indians of the valley. The rock stairs and whole house are amazing. I would go again to slowly walk around and get a better look at everything.
  • Originally built as both a research center and house in the early 1930s, this place is well worth a visit. The structure alone is incredible - a tudor style house built literally on the rocks (part of the rocks make up the great room and stairway inside). Inside you'll find an incredible array of native american objects and artifacts, with commentary, mostly from one man's collection originally. The ceilings of the 'Kachina Hall' are covered in kachina style art and then climb up the natural stone stairway to the upstairs. More objects are upstairs as well. Simply spectacular place. Who knew?? After visiting inside, take a hike around the trails on the outside. Great views and dramatic geology.
  • Really neat museum with a lot of local history on display. Beautiful walking paths around the museum.
  • A cool house built into the hills boulders. A great place to learn about the native populations that lived near there.
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