The Kern County Museum is a veritable beacon of local treasures; a place where beloved artifacts that hold a special place in our history are safe and sound. To think that none of this would be possible without the constant efforts of the Kern County Museum Foundation is a very sobering fact that may not be common knowledge.
Lori Wear, curator of collections, gave some insight to the history of the Foundation. “Initially, the main museum building was the Kern County Chamber of Commerce building in 1928, and as early as 1929, a call was put out to pioneers of the community to preserve the county’s history,” she began. “By doing this, the Museum ended up with things that other museums don’t have, like extremely early photos.”
There were many changes that occurred over the years, and as the Museum grew and acquired more pieces of indispensable history, so did the need for a skilled group to tend to everyday operations. In 1991, the Kern County Museum Foundation was formed, and just in 2012, more responsibilities befell the nonprofit. As the Museum celebrates its 75th year of being in our midst, the Foundation is more suited than ever to meet and exceed the demands.
With the changes that happened in 2012, Roger Perez joined the team as executive director and has been instrumental in helping to move the Foundation in a more prosperous direction. “We do a lot of fundraising,” Perez stated. “Since we have a seventy-five year old facility, we are usually just trying to keep things up and standing.” It is certainly no small feat to tend to roughly 60 different on-site buildings.
This last year, however, they started their Adopt-an-Artifact program, which is where a person or organization can sponsor different exhibits and basically fund any repairs or upkeep needed. “There are buildings that have been supported by groups like Valley Republic Bank,” Wear expanded, mentioning that recognizable features, like the Howell house, have been recipients of this unique adoption program. “With that money, we’ve been able to fix up those buildings, replace porches, put on new roofs, and repaint. It has helped defray the cost a bit and it also speeds up the process.”
Volunteers also help to keep the Foundation and the Museum going strong. Bob Lerude serves as the chair of the Museum board, and he explained how important volunteers are in a number of capacities. “As far as the board is concerned, we all have different responsibilities, depending on what committees we are on. We all volunteer our time at different events. For example, at Safe Halloween, we will meet and greet people at the front. Some of us helped out at the Nut Festival. It all depends on what Roger needs us to do.”
When you think about it, the Kern County Museum is home to some of Bakersfield’s favorite events, like Village Fest and the Holiday Lamplight Tours, and a number of children’s programs that benefit our community greatly. There seems to be something going on any time of the year, and so they always welcome the support of anyone who can help to keep this fantastic land of monuments going strong.
“We always love a donation to help funding for education, conservation, and the general operation,” Perez concluded, “but volunteering is another way to help out. We really need them all the time to do everything from manning the gift shop to giving tours. If we get enough volunteers, we will be able to do things every weekend.” This would be a major boon to our whole town.
For more information on how to be a part of the Kern County Museum, or if you just want to check out the various interesting and fun things they have going on, check out their website at www.kcmuseum.org.
Photos By Gregory Cook