2017-07-06 / Front Page

Back on solid ground

T.O.’s Chumash museum makes dramatic turnaround
By Dawn Megli-Thuna

LOCAL LORE—Above, Philippe Tilikete of Woodland Hills and his 5-year-old son, Cameron, look at a diorama of a Chumash village on display at the Chumash Indian Museum July 1 in Thousand Oaks. This was their first time at the museum. At top, Vinayak Chillal, 7, of Thousand Oaks looks at the museum’s displays during his first visit to the facility. LOCAL LORE—Above, Philippe Tilikete of Woodland Hills and his 5-year-old son, Cameron, look at a diorama of a Chumash village on display at the Chumash Indian Museum July 1 in Thousand Oaks. This was their first time at the museum. At top, Vinayak Chillal, 7, of Thousand Oaks looks at the museum’s displays during his first visit to the facility. The Chumash Indian Museum is thriving again after a brief closure late last year to save the failing operation, according to members of the museum’s board.

Barbara Tejada and Beverly Folkes shared the news with the Conejo Recreation and Park District board at its June 15 meeting. CRPD owns the Lang Ranch property that’s served as the museum’s home since 1994.

Citing financial issues and other challenges, the board temporarily shut down the museum in October. It reopened in late November with no paid staff and extremely reduced visiting hours: Saturdays only. Scheduled tours were still conducted on weekdays.


Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers The museum has maintained a positive cash flow since January, when it was able to hire two part-time employees to run the school tours.

Folkes, who is of Chumash descent, said the board was reluctant to shutter the museum at the height of its field trip season but local teachers and parents were willing to postpone their excursions until after the operation was back on its feet.

“The community has been so great,” Folkes told the Acorn. “They’ve been so understanding.”

While the museum is once again operating in the black, the nonprofit isn’t out of the woods yet, Tejada said in an interview.

“We’ve still got work to do,” she said, including earning accreditation.

The museum, which is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the Chumash people who established villages and seasonal encampments in the Conejo Valley through the late 1800s, would be eligible to receive traveling exhibits from other museums if it earned accreditation.


SOUVENIRS—The gift store at the Chumash Indian Museum in Thousand Oaks sells a variety of items, including this dreamcatcher. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers SOUVENIRS—The gift store at the Chumash Indian Museum in Thousand Oaks sells a variety of items, including this dreamcatcher. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Tejada, an archaeologist by trade, said Chumash artifacts have landed in collections across the globe, in places as far-flung as Russia, and being able to borrow them would broaden the museum’s educational programs.

While the museum is supported primarily by the fees collected from school and museum tours, Tejada said, the board will expand the number of grants the museum applies for in order to build new exhibits, ones that represent contemporary Chumash culture.

Folkes said the board of directors used the restructuring as an opportunity to make sure the museum and its presenters were as authentic as possible.

“Creator needs to clean house sometimes,” she said.

While the museum’s previous longtime curator Graywolf is Native American, he isn’t Chumash, Folkes said.

He’s since been replaced by Alan Salazar, a Chumash local who gives students a presentation of his genealogy, complete with vintage family photos.

CRPD director Joe Gibson said at the June 16 meeting that he was pleased to see the organization make a dramatic turnaround in such a short period of time.

“The museum is a true asset to the community,” he said. “I’m glad to see them back on solid footing.”

Folkes looks forward to watching the museum grow.

“It’s a strong little museum. The spirit is there,” she said.

The museum is at 3290 Lang Ranch Pkwy. and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

It is available to rent for filming or weddings, provided the event has little impact on the environment and is considerate of neighbors and curfews.

For more information, visit chumashmuseum.org.

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