The Antelope Valley Indian Museum has been a public museum since 1932, but it has also been a homestead, a theater, a dude ranch, a Hollywood set, and an attraction. It is situated on 147 acres of desert parkland on the south side of Piute Butte in the Mojave Desert against a dramatic backdrop of Joshua trees and towering rock formations. The building’s unique architecture and creative engineering earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Native American Heritage Commission designated Piute Butte as a sacred landscape.
The museum exhibits over 3,000 objects, including many rare and outstanding objects from the Antelope Valley, California coast, Great Basin, and the Southwest. An important four way trade route developed in the Antelope Valley at least 4,000 years ago. The trade routes went west and south to the California coast, north to the Central Valley, northeast to the Great Basin (the desert east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains), and east to the pueblos in what is now Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. The trade route expanded and enriched the material and social resources available to Antelope Valley residents, allowing large villages to develop near the valley’s springs.
History of H. Arden Edwards
Howard Arden Edwards, a self-taught artist, was fascinated with the scenery around the buttes in the Antelope Valley. He homesteaded 160 acres on rocky Piute Butte and in 1928. With his wife and teenage son, he began construction of what was to be a combination home and showcase for his extensive collection of American Indian culture. A unique structure evolved: a Tudor Revival style building, decorated inside and out with American Indian designs and motifs, incorporating large granite boulders as an integral part of the building both inside and out. You actually climb upon these rocks as you go from picturesque Kachina Hall upstairs to California Hall. This unusual upper level housed Mr. Edwards' original "Antelope Valley Indian Research Museum."
History of Grace Oliver
Grace Wilcox Oliver, a onetime student of anthropology, discovered Edwards' property while hiking in the desert. She felt it would be a perfect setting for a personal hideaway. She contacted the owner with an offer to buy the property. Successful in these negotiations, she modified some features of the main building, added her own collections, and expanded the physical facilities on the property. By this time she had decided to open the entire structure as The Antelope Valley Indian Museum. Grace operated the museum intermittently through the 1940s, 50s, 60s & 70s.
Becoming a State Park
Local support for the acquisition of the property by the State of California led Oliver to sell the land and donate the collection to State Parks in 1979. The museum has been designated as a Regional Indian Museum, emphasizing American Indian cultures of the Great Basin.