AVIM building Antelope Valley Indian Museum
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About the Museum

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 Native American 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 Native American 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 Native Americans, although it contains artifacts from a number of other geographic regions.

In the 1980s, the State Parks designated the museum as a regional Native American museum, 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.

In 2010, the museum completed a 4-year stabilization project to protect this landmark building and its collections. More information about the stabilization project.

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 Native American 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 Native American cultural materials are exhibited and interpreted in museums.


Virtual Tours
Short films of the museum's collections before the collections and displays were removed for stabilization in 2007.

Video 1: Antelope Valley Room (1 min., 49 sec.)

The exhibits in the Antelope Valley Room were created in the early 1990s to show how Native Americans adapted to the environment in the Antelope Valley. The valley was a trade crossroads between the California coast, the Great Basin, and the Pueblo cultures of Arizona and New Mexico and displays show artifacts from these cultures. Also shown are photographs of rock art from the Antelope Valley, Great Basin, and Southwest.

Video 2: California Hall (7 min., 13 sec.)

This video takes us through a cleft in the rock integrated in the museum structure. Passing through the Pottery Alcove with its collection of Tohono O’odham pots, we enter California Hall, which contains exhibits about coastal and Antelope Valley cultures. This hall was museum founder H. A. Edwards’ original Antelope Valley Indian Research Museum. Many of Edwards’s original exhibits from the 1930s are preserved here to show how the interpretation of Native American cultures has evolved since then.

Video 3: Edwards's Loft Studio (45 sec.)

This video provides behind-the-scenes footage of a room that is not open to the public. Museum founder H. A. Edwards used the highest tower in the building as a workshop. To reach it, he climbed a ladder that could be pulled up into the room and the trap door closed for privacy. The video shows the shelves where Edwards kept his supplies, his work tables, and the view of Lovejoy and Piute Buttes from the windows.

Video 4: Great Basin Room (1 min., 11 sec.)

Great Basin peoples used their extensive knowledge of the ecosystem and the plants and animals in it to get food, medicine, and materials for making baskets, homes, rope, clothing, and hunting equipment. A diorama painted by H. A. Edwards in the 1930s depicts his vision of what Antelope Valley life was like in the past and other displays use artifacts, raw materials, and historic photographs to show how the Great Basin peoples lived.

Video 5: Kachina Hall (4 min., 9 sec.)

Kachina Hall was once the living room of the Edwards family home in the 1930s. Most of the objects in this room are displayed in the open, giving visitors the impression that they are guests in the Edwards’s home. H. A. Edwards painted the panels inspired by the Kachina figures of the Pueblo peoples.

Video 6: Southwest Room (7 min., 52 sec.)

This room was originally the Edwards’s dining room in the 1930s. Now the room contains exhibits about the Hohokam, Ancestral Pueblo, modern Pueblo, and Navajo cultures of the Arizona and New Mexico regions. The exhibits are displayed in the style of the museum’s second owner, Grace Oliver, and reveal how Native American cultures were interpreted in the 1950s.

Video 7: Sun Room (41 sec.)

The Sun Room was used as a library and sitting room by the Edwards family and has been used as the museum gift shop. H. A. Edwards was fascinated by Pueblo Kachinas, and he created two Kachina-inspired sculptures in this room. The design on the smaller Kachina that resembles the swastika is an important traditional symbol used by Puebloan peoples for thousands of years.

Video 8: Tower Bedroom (1 min., 4 sec.)

This video provides behind-the-scenes footage of a room that is not open to the public. This room was the bedroom of Arden Edwards, the son of museum founder H. A. Edwards. It is only accessible by a second-floor exterior door. Originally a built-in ladder on the side of the building led to the room. The ladder was removed by the musuem's second owner Grace Oliver. The room still contains original bedroom furniture.

LA as Subject

The L.A. as Subject database is an on-line directory of less visible archives and collections that preserve historical materials related to the Los Angeles region.


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