The Museum of Ventura County celebrates, preserves and interprets the art, history and culture of Ventura County, the California Channel Islands and the surrounding region through its collections, exhibitions, events, educational programs, publications and its research library, and serves as a gathering place for the community.
The Museum of Ventura County first opened in 1913 in the newly built Ventura County Courthouse (now Ventura City Hall). Soon known as the Pioneer Museum, its collections of artifacts and curios were the legacy of Dr. Cephas Bard, a Pennsylvania doctor who came to Ventura after the Civil War. A compassionate man with wide-ranging interests, Dr. Bard accepted historical objects in lieu of cash payment for his services. Priceless Chumash, Spanish and Mexican-American objects from his collection are on display in the galleries today.
In 1977, the Museum moved to its 15,000 square foot building on Ventura’s Main Street, near historic Mission San Buenaventura. In 1978, it became an independent nonprofit, no longer receiving operating support from the County of Ventura.
In July 2010, our Phase One expansion opened with a New Plaza facing onto Main Street, the state-of-the-art Martin V. and Martha K. Smith Pavilion, a renovated lobby, parking lot, and new landscaping.
In September of 2011, our new Museum of Ventura County Agriculture Museum opened to the public in nearby Santa Paula. With permanent and changing exhibitions, programs and events, the Agriculture Museum celebrates the long and innovative agricultural history of our region.
How the Museum Fulfills Its Mission
Over 50,000 individuals per year enjoy the Museum’s exhibitions, Research Library, tours, special programs, and events.
- Collections: The Fine Arts and Historical Artifacts collection includes more than 30,000 objects and works of art. The fine arts portion of the collection includes priceless works by renowned local artists such as John Nava, Jessie Arms Botke, Omar d’Leon, Horace Bristol and Beatrice Wood, and more than 200 extraordinary historical figures by Ojai artist and historian George Stuart. Artifacts relating to Ventura County’s early inhabitants, and to participation in local, national and global events such as the Spanish American War, World War II, and the Saint Francis Dam Disaster, chronicle the history of Ventura County to the present day.
- Research Library and Archives: A non-lending Research Library affiliated with the County Library holds over 170,000 items relating to our County’s history including maps, photographs, newspapers, books, periodicals, manuscripts, oral histories and video tapes, many of them rare and one-of-a-kind, articles of incorporation, and other county records. We draw from all of these holdings to create interpretive exhibitions that illuminate our County’s past, and the possible course of its future.
- Exhibitions: Our changing and permanent exhibitions receive extensive media coverage, and have been recognized with national awards. All of the exhibitions we have presented over the years have interpreted our local history and culture in order to preserve knowledge of and stimulate interest and appreciation for Ventura County. A number of these exhibits have traveled to other museums and institutions. The George Stuart Historical Figures®, on display in the Smith Gallery, are world famous for their lifelike and detailed portrayals of famous individuals throughout history.
- Children’s Programs: 5,400 children are served each year thorough hands-on field trips to the Museum, school outreach visits, and our unique Museum To Go program for teachers. The Museum also offers “First Sundays Free” every first Sunday of the month to encourage families and individuals to visit both museums. In the summer, the Museum’s Education Department offers Chumash Youth and ArtStart programs.
- Adult Programs: Speakers’ series, community presentations, and adult tours to the Museum serve more than 600 adults each year.
- Special Events: Opening receptions, lectures, and Museum-sponsored day trips provide additional opportunities for travel and education.
- Members: Over 1,700 businesses and individuals support the Museum and receive our quarterly Newsletter, the Ventura County Historical Society’s publication of The Journal of Ventura County History, exhibit announcements, special event invitations and other publications.
- Annual Budget: Approximately $900,000 comes from memberships, admission fees, donations, endowment income, earned income from the Museum Store and special events, and grants from corporations, foundations and from the City of Ventura and Ventura County.
- Endowment Funds: Endowment funds are professionally managed and are overseen by a committee of members on the Board of Directors and provide operating income for Museum activities. These funds include a general operating endowment, the Farm Implement Building Fund, and the Bonita McFarland Trust for art exhibitions, purchases and education.
- Board of Directors: Meet monthly and is comprised of up to twenty-five board members elected for three-year terms.
- Staff and Volunteers: The Museum is operated by 14 full-time and 11 part-time professional staff members, assisted by docents and volunteers who contribute over 15,000 hours of service annually.