For over 40 years, the children of Bakersfield have looked forward to the activities afforded to them at the Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center located at the Kern County Museum.

The idea for a children’s enrichment center at the Kern County Museum was first thought of in 1971. In November of that year, the Junior League of Bakersfield pledged $25,000 toward the construction of a 4,200-square-foot structure on the grounds of Pioneer Village Museum.

According to the Aug. 20, 1976, Bakersfield Californian, one of the unique aspects of the construction of the center is that where most projects of this kind in other communities were subsidized by federal funds, this project was built through “the most dedicated volunteer efforts this community has ever seen.” In addition to Junior League, Brock’s Party of the Year (which raised $35,000 of the total $95,000), the Quota Club, the Camp Fire Girls, Kern Retired Teachers Association and dozens of private contributors helped make the dream a reality.

The Museum Development Committee decided in 1976 that the new children’s museum was to be named after Miss Lori Brock, daughter of John and Gladys Brock. Miss Brock was an exemplary young woman who met her untimely death in 1972 due to an automobile accident.

Born in 1949, Brock attended Franklin Elementary, Emerson Junior High, Bakersfield High School and San Jose State University. She was civic-minded and served as a member of the Interracial Council, was head yell leader and class representative at large. During her senior year of high school, she was elected Miss BHS, a title voted on by the student body and a testament to the high esteem she was held in by her peers. According to the May 26, 1976, Bakersfield Californian, the committee’s recommendation stated, “She had the capacity to make every person feel a sense of his own worth, and she brought out the best in everyone with whom she came in contact.”

Finally, on Aug. 15, 1976, the dream became a reality when the Lori Brock Junior Museum was declared officially completed. The Opening of the Year gala kicked off the official opening on Oct. 10, 1976. The Bakersfield High School orchestra and CSUB’s Jazz Ensemble entertained over 700 guests. When asked by Camille Gavin of The Californian about the new center, Dorothy Ernst, first president of the Museum Development Committee, said, “I walk by the building and it smiles at me.”

In a Nov. 12, 1976 letter to Californian Editor Avon Wonderly, the chairwoman of the Opening of the Year Committee stated: “The Lori Brock Junior Museum is an important cultural addition to our community. It is because so many people have given of their time, talent and treasure that the building is now a reality and the programs will begin to grow and flourish.”

Now known as The Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center, it continues to meet the growing needs of Kern County’s youth. With a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) based hands-on activities, the center’s latest improvements continue to entertain and educate its young visitors. 

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