Yesterday, my daughter (who is home for break from UC Berkeley) ask to spend a father-daughter day. Knowing she’s a history major, I suggested visiting our two newest museums in the San Fernando Valley, which we did today. So as I record an album appropriate to the day (see Music: below), I though I would tell you about them.
The first museum we visited was the Valley Relics museum in Chatsworth, at 21630 Marilla St. (where Marilla and Owensmouth meet). Although some view Valley Relics as a museum, it is really much more of an organized collection. This isn’t a bad thing; rather, it reflects the fact that museums provide more interpretation and context for the items displayed. Valley Relics is much more about the relics, and they have a remarkable collection. They are a wonderful place to wander and go: “I remember that!”. You’ll find memories big and small: from all sorts of Van Nuys High yearbooks and Busch Garden’s memorabilia to loads of Nudie stuff (including two cars) to restaurant menus from valley restaurants to large signs galore (including the signs from Henry’s Tacos, the White Horse Inn, and the Tiffany Theatre). There are bus and train artifacts, including time tables, and loads of stuff from all sorts of valley businesses. There were quite a few items that I personally have copies of, including the 1971 magazine on the Sylmar Earthquake and the San Fernando Valley book. They would be particularly interested in the albums I’m recording right now, as they came out of CSUN in the 1970s. I’ll note that the curator and collector, Tommy Gelinas, was at the museum and was very friendly; he’s been collecting this stuff for 20 years and finally opened the exhibit space in 2014 (after gaining loads of publicity when he rescued the sign from the Tiffany Theatre and from Henry’s Tacos). Valley Relics is open Saturdays from 10am to 3pm. I plan to be back, and might even have some relics to donate.
The second museum we visited is much more of a traditional museum: The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. This is a much smaller facility, located on the second floor of an office complex in Northridge, at 18860 Nordhoff St., Suite 204, 91324 (about a mile or so from our house, at Nordhoff and Wilbur). They, too, have been a wandering museum for a long time, finally finding a home in 2014. They fit the museum title better, having interpretive exhibits that explain the portion of the collection on display and put it in some semblance of context. To me, I wish the context had a bit more valley content; for example, there was a wall of pictures of motion picture stars — I would have liked to have seen more explanation of each star’s connection to the valley. There were a number of exhibits up when we were there, including an exhibit on the Westmoreland family of Hollywood makeup artists, an exhibit on the valley’s contribution to defense efforts, an exhibit about public art in the valley, and a photography exhibit. Between all these exhibits, however, there was much less of the valley’s history shown. There were also knowledgable docents, who were also board members. The museum also had a library: I was able to look at valley plat maps from 1966, which showed conclusively that Rinaldi Place was previously Rinaldi St., and (after a discontinuity over Aliso Creek), continued on through to Reseda and points west (before it was wiped out by the 118 freeway). Again, this is a place I want to visit again. The Museum of the San Fernando Valley is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 1 to 6 pm (8pm on Tuesdays).
Contrasting the two facilities is interesting. Valley Relics provides many of the cultural touchpieces that those who grew up in the valley will remember; in doing so, it provides much of the valley’s history. The Museum of the SFV provides much more interpretation and context (which is needed), but over a much more limited window into their collection (due to space limitations). It is definitely worth visiting both facilities, and one wishes there was a true facility that covered the complete history of the region, the forces that shaped its development (water, the movie industry, farming, defense, planned communities, and much more). Although the Autry is peripherally in the valley (being at the edge of Los Angeles and Glendale in Griffith Park), and would have the facilities to tie all the pieces together, it doesn’t have that focus in what it shows (or at least, in what I’ve seen).