Olivia Garcia

Olivia Garcia

Kern Pioneer Village is brewing with many activities.

On Sunday the museum will hold a free open house noon to 4 p.m., inviting the public to explore the Aera Energy Gallery, the research center, the redesigned Lori Brock Discovery Center, new exhibits, renovated buildings and more.

Members of California State University’s Public History Institute met at the research center Friday and were fortunate to get a tour of the building by Lori Wear, Kern Pioneer Village’s curator of collections.

The Bakersfield Californian Foundation Research Center opened in November and “houses the museum’s archive and reference library,” said Wear, noting that the center was named after the foundation because of its generous donation. “Kern County has a wonderful space for researchers to examine historical information.”

Researchers can access the museum’s archives by making an appointment to view photographs, maps, diaries or other historical documents.

She noted that residents have begun showing up to access the archives while researching family history, the history of the Red Cross, and other local historical treasures.

“This space provides a better environment to preserve Kern County rich and diverse history and is more accessible for researchers,” she said.

Indeed. While guiding the recent tour of the research center, Wear noted the center’s archived photographs, maps, newspapers, diaries, court transcripts, registers, Kern County Land Company ledgers, Bakersfield Police Department arrest records, Kern County tax records, and more.

“We are still moving the museum’s archives into the new research center,” she said. “Ideally, we would like to provide digital access via the internet to all of the museum’s archive.”

The research center is a dramatic improvement from the previous method.

“To access the former archival storage space, researchers had to go through a custodian’s closet, walk down a flight of steep stairs to a dimly lit basement with poor climate control, and work in an approximately 50 square foot space,” Wear said. “Now, they can access collections in a well-lit space specifically designed for the museum’s collection by Jeremy Manning at Paul Dhanens Architect, Inc. Whitezell Construction Inc. was the contractor who built this new facility.”

This is an exciting time for the museum and kudos go to the donors, museum staff and volunteers who have spent some time organizing the archives so residents can access it in a smoother process.

If the Feb. 12 open house date is not possible for some residents to make, then consider attending the museum’s Living History Day, which will run from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Kern Pioneer Village. The Living History Day dates are Feb. 11, March 11, April 8, May 13 and June 10. As part of this event, museum organizers say visitors will be greeted by volunteers who will be dressed in costumes. In addition, docents will provide guided tours of some of the exhibits.

In another event, the museum will host Train Days on Feb. 18, March 18 and June 17. Train Days will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. As part of Train Days, organizers said visitors will be able to explore the Bena Depot as well as the locomotive and caboose. According to the online Historical Marker Database, the Bena Depot was once located a few miles away from the historic Tehachapi Loop. The depot, which also served as a station for the telegraph during its heyday, was donated to the museum in the 1960s by the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads, the online database shows.

As someone who has attended the museum as a little girl as part of a school field trip then over the years as an adult, I can say this is truly an exciting time for the museum and definitely one needs to make time for to visit, reflect and explore.

Email contributing columnist Olivia Garcia at oliviagarcia2@icloud.com. Her work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are her own.

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