Rusty, antique farm equipment bakes in the Independence sun and squeak in the Eastside winds. The old tractors and plows sit in the front yard of the Eastern California Museum. The exhibits start before opening the door.
The Eastern California Museum offers spectators a glimpse into the rich history of a timeless place.
Established in 1928, the museum has a vast collection of Paiute and Shoshone Indian clothing and intricate beadwork, cradleboards and weapons, like arrowheads and knives. The museum houses one of the finest collection of Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone and Death Valley Panamint-Shoshone basketry in the country.
There are plenty of oddities and unique treasures on display, like antique guns and a Mammoth leg bone from the last Ice Age found on Owens Dry Lake.
Exhibits include the photogravures of Edward Curtis and the photography of Andrew Forbes, two prominent photographers of Native Americans at the turn of the century. A permanent exhibit of mountaineering legend and local curmudgeon, Norman Clyde includes photos and his ice axe. Clyde was the first to climb many of the peaks on the Eastside.
More than 27,000 historic photos dating back to the 19th Century along with an extensive computer database are housed at the museum. The History and Family files contain photos and newspaper clippings of local pioneers and founding families of the area.
For those who don’t want to get out there car, the museum offers a Virtual Transportation Museum containing more than 500 photos that chronical the challenges of getting around on the Eastside.
The Museum also manages the Commander's House and Edwards House in Independence, and the Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden on the museum grounds. The Edwards House in the oldest building in the county built by Thomas Edwards, a town founder, built circa. 1863. It is located behind the Post Office. The Commander’s House, built circa. 1865, is named after the commander’s house located in Fort Independence. Fort Independence was established on July 4, 1862, during the Owens Valley Indian War.
The museum and the Friends of the Eastern California Museum host lectures, book signings and lead yours to local points of interest like the Cerro Gordo Mine. Check the website, http://fecm.org, for the calendar of events.
The museum, located at 155 N. Grant St., two blocks west of Highway 395 and is open daily and weekends (except major holidays) and admission is free, although donations are appreciated. Look for them on Facebook or go to www.inyocounty.us/ecmsite/. Contact the museum at 760.878.0258.
Mike Bodine has been reporting on the small town news and gossip of the Eastside for more than 15 years.