The Museum of Tulare County, through its collections, exhibits, educational programs and publications, celebrates the history, art, and culture of the city of Tulare.
A group of citizens concerned with preserving Tulare's rich history met in June 1980 to organize the Tulare City Historical Society. The initial step was to raise enough money to build a state-of-the-art museum designed to preserve and protect the relics of Tulare's unique history. The Board of Directors organized several fund-raising events - yard sales, luncheons, banquets, etc. But most of the $375,000 needed for the first phase came from outright gifts donated by generous Tulareans.
Within two years, they raised nearly enough capital to build the first phase, a 7400 square foot structure designed specifically to house a modern museum.
The site chosen for the building was historic, replacing the century-old Central School in the 400 block of West Tulare Avenue. In 1983 construction began, completed in 1984, and the museum opened its doors to the public on November 16, 1985. A second phase completed in 1992, with Dr. Tom Nagy, chairman of the building committee, added 4700 square feet and included:
Much-needed office space.
Another exhibit hall (named in honor of Bob and Gerry Soults).
An assembly hall (the Heritage Room).
Artfully arranged exhibits tell the stories of the original inhabitants of the area (the Yokuts), Tulare's founding by the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the indomitable pioneers who persevered against overwhelming odds. In addition, visitors have the opportunity to peek inside Tulare homes and business establishments, as they appeared more than a century ago. Besides offering guided tours of the exhibits, the museum schedules changing displays of original art in the Heritage Room.
The museum is the repository of two truly unique collections. The Bob Mathias exhibit consists of medals, trophies, and souvenirs collected by this Tulare native during his incredible athletic and political career. Even the gold medals won at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics are on display. The Manuel Toledo collection showcases hundreds of military memorabilia collected by this decorated World War II hero.
HOW THE MUSEUM FULFILLS ITS MISSION
Actively pursue avenues to embrace, celebrate, and showcase a broader audience concerning our City’s culturally diverse community: Tulare has grown, and our institution must also evolve to reflect the many faces and contributions that represent our richly diverse community.
Continued responsible stewardship of our facility: As we embrace a growing community, we must also be mindful of our duty to preserve and showcase our City’s heritage elements. Responsible expansion of our facility is a serious consideration. Future expansion plans must include features that offset initial costs to the museum and provide a steady, reliable source of income for years to come. Fundraising will always play a vital role in supporting our efforts at the museum. Through alternative forms of funding (e.g., grant writing and facility rental), we will explore and pursue opportunities that require less reliance on event ticket sales and place us on a path to financial independence.
Build on our strong relationship with local schools: To develop a greater connection that students have with the museum is essential in promoting a natural feeling of community built on mutual respect, civic responsivity, and pride. We must create more opportunities for students to engage in “hands-on” activities and experiences that promote their feeling of ownership in the museum.
Ensuring timely communication with our membership: Informing all members of our museum family of upcoming events and news that directly relates to the growth and stability of the organization.
Developing and promoting a Yearly Event Calendar that honors traditional events and features new activities: This calendar should be coordinated with the Special Collections Calendar to maximize the museum experience that our guests receive.
Develop a yearly calendar of “Special Collection Exhibitions” to be on public display quarterly: Displays should reflect current cultural events or celebrations. They may also be theme-oriented or seasonal. Regardless of the subject, guests to the museum should readily see the connection to our community’s heritage. Posting appropriate and timely notices in advance on all social media sites, THM website, and postcards mailed to our membership.