Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!
2020 is notable for Barona Cultural Center & Museum—it was 20 years ago that we first opened our doors.
It was a dream of many that was finally realized. We had a place to share our culture and heritage with each other and with the public. Our children could now grow in the richness of our heritage and what remained of our ancient material culture could now be preserved for the next generations. It was an exciting time; we were the first Native museum in San Diego County and our story could be told our way—not the way it is taught in schools, in textbooks, or even in other museums!
Our founding collection, the Speer Collection, now has a home and could be
showcased. This very important collection provided the impetus to build the
museum once we were realizing profits from the casino—the museum was one of the first things we created. The collection helps us interpret our history and contains our oldest artifact—a spear point that dates to 10,000 years old!
Since acquiring this collection, we became a collecting institution and our cultural material (artifact) collection quickly outgrew our storage space. We were able to move into a larger space and create a Research Center for our People, students, scholars, and researchers, to learn more about our People through our material culture. Our Collections Manager and Assistant Curator work hard to preserve this collection while making it a valuable research and educational tool.
As our artifact collection grew, so did our archives—our archival collection holds all kinds of research treasures and articles for posterity in a variety of media—photographs, videos, audio recordings, documents, maps, and more! Our archivist keeps all of this material organized including our Research Library book collection. Our Research Library is non-circulating and available for researchers to use. Our scope is wide and our holdings cover the gamut of Native history.
Our mission, then and now, to educate has propelled us in a variety of ways over the years. Our outreach program has grown exponentially, now reaching over 10,000 people annually. We serve both our Native and public audiences in a variety of ways: ancient skills classes for the public, lectures, book signings, book clubs, culture camp, culture classes, assisting with the annual Gathering, outreaches into schools and other community groups, and much more. Our Native Plant Garden is just lovely and is the result of many hands over the years. In the Garden, we can share our ancestors’ rich knowledge of plants and their environment. We love sharing with others about Native knowledge. We enjoy working with the Scout groups and teaching them about our ways—a program we designed for their Indian Lore Merit Badge Clinic.
Our small Museum has grown in many ways over the last 20 years. Our staff has grown to include 6 full-time and one part-time museum professionals. Our collections have grown. Our space has grown to include the Research Center and Joan Phoenix Library. Our offerings have grown. We are members of the San Diego Museum Council and our Director serves on their Board ensuring our Museum is represented among the other 40+ museums throughout San Diego County. Our Director also serves on the Western Museums Association Board, representing Native Museums’ voices throughout the Western territory. Barona Cultural Center & Museum is definitely on the map!
Here at Barona Museum we stand on the shoulders of those who came before: our ancestors, our predecessors, those we have lost, and even former staff members. All have contributed to where we are today and all of our many accomplishments and accolades. We received two awards in 2019: The Institute for Museum and Library Service’s National Medal for community service and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums’ Guardians of Culture award. We are proud to receive such recognition for our work and we are thrilled about our future! Both of these come at a very important time for the Museum—with support from Tribal Council, the Barona People, and other generous donors, we are embarking upon a gallery renovation featuring our Creation Story presented in a multi-sensory theater space.
Several years ago, through the help of an IMLS grant, we were able to piece together what remains of our Creation Story and other philosophical stories. Museum Staff mined ethnographic collections nation-wide and we now have a printed booklet with our stories documented for future generations. These stories were almost completely lost. At the time the amateur ethnographers documented pieces of our stories in the early 1900s, the stories were fragmented then. In the short 250-year time span since contact, our culture, heritage, traditions, and ways were almost lost through waves of attempted genocide and assimilation. We are thrilled to be bringing our ways of knowing back.
The Museum has grown into a real, professional museum—an educational institution—in 20 years. While the days might be long, the years have flown by. Our future is bright and we hope you’ll visit and participate in our activities and help us celebrate our anniversary year.