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The Tulare Historical Museum preserves and showcases the history of the City of Tulare and serves as a cultural center for the community.


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).

  • A kitchen.


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.


  • Actively pursues avenues to embrace, celebrate, and showcase, a wider audience in relation to our city’s culturally diverse community. Tulare has grown and our institution also grows in order to be reflective of the many faces and contributions that are representative of our richly diverse community.

  • Continued, responsible stewardship of our facility. As we embrace a growing community, we remain mindful of our duty to preserve and showcase elements of our city’s heritage. Future expansion plans will include features that off-set 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. Though 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 will secure our financial independence. 


  • Continue and build upon our strong relationship with local schools. To grow and maintain the strong connection that students have with the museum is essential in our efforts to promote a real feeling of community built on mutual respect, civic responsivity and pride. We are mindful in creating 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. All members of our museum family are fully informed 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 is coordinated with the Special Collections Calendar in order to maximize the museum experience that our guests receive.


  • Developing and promoting a yearly calendar of “Special Collection Exhibitions” to be on public display on a bi-monthly basis. Displays are reflective of current cultural events or celebrations. They may also be theme-oriented or seasonal in nature. Regardless of the subject, museum guests will readily see the connection to our community’s heritage. Events are posted in advance on our social media sites, THM website, and postcards are mailed to our membership.


  • Encouraging community involvement. Actively embracing our community’s participation of loaning or donating items, volunteering, or simply visiting the museum is essential to successfully sharing the unique history of Tulare.


  • Setting and maintaining appropriate standards for collection care and storage. Creating and maintaining a safe and organized environment for the storage of our collection. This not only allows for the long-term care of artifacts but also for simplified retrieval when setting up Special Collections Exhibitions or the refreshing of permanent exhibits.

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