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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Efforts to Bring New Life to Valley Museum Underway

BY MATTHEW A. GILBERT Contributing Reporter A new future is in store for the Museum of the San Fernando Valley, a keeper of the area’s past. The little known repository of artifacts, photographs and other memorabilia tracing the history of the Valley from its roots as an agricultural center, is getting ready for a facelift, with a new administration, new headquarters and a new format that will include taking the exhibits on the road to schools and other institutions. “We all felt this was something we were drawn to because of our collective interest in history,” said Richard Raskoff, Los Angeles Valley College professor of geography and meteorology, who is acting as interim curator of the museum. “We think when we get the new museum that we are going to have a real good way of grabbing people at all levels to come see what we have.” Located in a bungalow at LAVC, the museum has been operating with annual funding of just $3,000 a year from the W.P. Whitsett Foundation and a small stipend from the LAVC’s Patrons Association, the parent organization for the museum. The financing has narrowly covered its operating budget. But with a new board of directors currently being assembled, officials say they hope to boost their activities and their resources. On the wish list is a full time curator for the museum, which has not had a curator since 2003 when 91-year-old former LAVC teacher Austin Conover retired from the job. “The museum has been relying solely on the generosity of the Whitsett Foundation,” said Raul Castillo, a member of the museum’s board of directors and executive director of the Patrons Association. “One of the charges of the Board is for fundraising efforts.” The museum which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, includes eight different theme rooms each dedicated to a different historical era. One room features information about earthquakes in the Valley; another is dedicated to William P. Whisett, founder of Van Nuys. There is a farm room, a room that features clothing from the late 1800s, a library and an exhibit of plants indigenous to the Valley. “It’s like walking into your attic and seeing all of these cool things,” said Castillo. The museum will move into permanent quarters in the school’s new $24 million Robert M. Hertzberg Library and Learning Resource Center when that facility opens in 2008. But officials say they are not waiting for the library’s opening to increase the visibility of the museum. They hope to establish partnerships to bring the exhibits, along with a variety of programs to schools and other organizations. Meanwhile additional volunteers are being recruited to serve on the eight-member board which is planned to grow to about 25 people. “We are looking for people who are really dedicated,” said Jerry Fecht, a member of the museum’s board of directors, adding that with a population of 1.7 million residents in the Valley and an income greater than Denmark, the museum is a much needed resource. “If Denmark can sustain 100 museums, we should be able to sustain one,” he said.

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