To serve the City of Avenal through the collection, curation, and exhibition of artifacts that preserve and share the unique history of Avenal, California. The Avenal Historical Society and Museum is dedicated to creating meaningful cultural experiences that strengthen our community's sense of discovery, learning, and civic pride.
- Core programming of the Avenal Historical Society and Museum (AHSM) includes:
- Rotating free exhibitions in the Museum building, curated by Board Members.
- Ongoing free tours, fulfillment of document requests, and research about Avenal’s past.
- Recognition of culturally significant buildings in Avenal for preservation.
- Resources provided to students through partnerships with the Avenal School District.
- Semi-annual elementary school tours for 4th grade students at both elementary schools in Avenal.
- Avenal history workshops for high school juniors and seniors in civics class.
- Avenal Voices Project: a new initiative that produces mini-documentaries featuring stories about Avenal from its constituents.
Additional services and support provided by AHSM includes:
- Avenal ReLeaf: a conservationist and beautification project engaging various community members and organizations to plant trees throughout Avenal for generations to come
- Year-round meeting space for other local non-profits, such as Avenal Rotary, and class reunion meetups
- Participation in local annual festivals, including the Pistachio Festival and Old Timers’ Day.
- Organizational Outcomes (including but not limited to population served, number served, demographic background of population served).
Formally established in May of 1998, the Avenal Historical Society and Museum is a local leader in conservation and education. This one-of-a-kind museum is run by a committed team of volunteers on the site of the first church house in Avenal, California.
Since its opening, the Historical Society has secured numerous bequests that have been curated into exhibitions open to the public. When the Milham Exploration Company discovered oil in Avenal in 1927, it developed into so much more than a boomtown; in fact, it was widely known as the "Oil Fields Capital" in Central California. With the help of inspired residents, the Historical Society has been able to capture much of the local history, including the community's transition into the "Pistachio Capital of the World®." This is largely due to the Museum's naturally stimulating features, which include original exhibits and the preservation of the church's pews. Unlike larger cities, Avenal relies on its residents - lovingly dubbed Old Timers - rather than historians for its chronicles. Thus, the Museum plays a vital role in facilitating the gathering and passing down of oral history.
The Museum is open on weekends and upon request any other day. It also hosts the Avenal Rotary Club's weekly meetings. It is a popular stop, particularly for younger audiences, during Old Timers' Day, which is celebrated every May.
The Museum’s guestbook logs an average of 850 attendants throughout the year, particularly impressive for a city with an estimated population of 12,440 per the U.S. Census Bureau. The Museum’s audiences are highly reflective of the city’s demographic breakdown, including 82% Hispanic or Latino, 11% White, and 6% Black or African American. Though the AHSM intends to serve the general public, regardless of age and socio-economic status, its partnerships with the Avenal School District and Avenal Rotary particularly target populations under 18 and over 65 years. Most Board Members and Volunteers are 65+ years old.
Additionally, the AHSM recognizes that it faces challenges unique to its home city. In an article published on February 7, 2019 USA Today ranked Avenal the 10th least desirable city to live in America citing a 36.3% poverty rate (top 10% in the nation), a median home value of $129,000, and a violent crime rate that ranked in the top 25% in 2017. In the face of such challenges, local organizations such as the AHSM play a larger role than they would in other cities to engage residents and to combat these threats to quality of life in Avenal.