7 Regional Museums Dedicated To Preserving Local Culture

When most people think about history, they think about the big picture: major events and figures on the national, or even global, stage. But digging into the past of a particular region can be just as rewarding. Whether you want to learn more about your hometown or explore the history of a place you're visiting, check out the seven excellent museums listed here. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Museums That Showcase Regional History & Culture

Organization Location
Elverhoj Museum of History and Art Solvang, CA
Imperial Valley Desert Museum Ocotillo, CA
Appalachian Trail Museum Gardners, PA
Martha's Vineyard Museum Vineyard Haven, MA
Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum Sag Harbor, NY
Kentucky Derby Museum Louisville, KY
Clarke Historical Museum Eureka, CA

Ways To Engage In Lifelong Learning

  • Visit a museum
  • Read both fiction and non-fiction as often as you can
  • Teach others what you know
  • Explore new places
  • Start a creative project, like a vlog or podcast
  • Get a good desk for your home
  • Join a study group
  • Take a hike through nature
  • Listen to different types of music
  • Look up words you don't know in the dictionary

The Importance Of Historic Preservation

In Depth

While a visit to the Smithsonian can be enriching, you don't have to travel that far from home to learn about the past. There are many regional museums throughout the United States helping to educate the public about the history and culture of their own communities. Whether you live nearby or are just visiting, here, in no particular order, are seven places worth checking out.

Kicking things off at #1 is the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art in Solvang, California. Solvang, a small town of just over 5,000 people located about two hours from Los Angeles, is famous for its quaint architecture and delicious baked goods. The Elverhoj, which translates as "Elves on a hill," is committed to sharing the history of Solvang's Danish culture and promoting art in the community.

In addition to the Solvang Room, which recounts stories of the town dating back to 1910, there are also revolving art exhibits, as well as a collection of Viking tools and weapons. Younger visitors will enjoy the hands-on display table and the chance to see a real Viking-era sword. Out-of-town visitors are always welcome, and locals can enjoy the benefits of membership, which includes priority registration for classes and events.

Younger visitors will enjoy the hands-on display table and the chance to see a real Viking-era sword.

At #2 is the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Located in the heart of the Yuha Desert, this is a fascinating place to discover historic Native American artifacts found in the area. There are plenty of educational programs for children to learn about science and history, and a lunar observatory where stargazers can set up telescopes away from the lights of the nearby highways.

There is also an artistic side to the site, including the Giant Purple Cactus, a trio of big sculptures interpreting a child's rendering of a purple prickly pear cactus. One of the sculptures even has a base covered in a hundred shards from pottery projects done by children, showing how everything comes from something. In addition to its regular hours and availability for field trips, the space can be rented out, providing a gorgeous backdrop for special events.

In the #3 spot is the Appalachian Trail Museum, which is in Pennsylvania's Pine Grove Furnace State Park, close to the midpoint of the trail. It's located at the former site of a grist mill built more than 200 years ago, and lies across the street from the Pine Grove general store, where hikers used to celebrate reaching the midpoint of the trail by attempting to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting.

It's located at the former site of a grist mill built more than 200 years ago, and lies across the street from the Pine Grove general store, where hikers used to celebrate reaching the midpoint of the trail by attempting to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting.

Dedicated to telling the stories of the construction and legacy of the trail, there are exhibits about early pioneers of the journey, as well as a database of more than 10,000 pictures of hikers who stopped at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as they passed. There is also a wonderful collection of stories and journals of hikers organized by year, which can be accessed online. As part of a renovation project to restore the "Old Mill" building, supporters can get their names put on plaques that will permanently hang inside.

Coming in at #4 is the Martha's Vineyard Museum. Active since 1922, when it was known as the Dukes County Historical Society, it now exists in a renovated former marine hospital and has extensive collections of documents, photographs, and books that preserve the history of the island and those who lived on it. It's also a great place to learn about buildings, lighthouses, and other historic sites nearby like the Thomas Cooke House.

The rotating exhibitions include those dedicated to photography, history, and science, ensuring all members of the family will be able to find something interesting inside. As the sea is such an important part of the island's history, there are a number of whaling and fishing vessels preserved in Doherty Hall. Members can sponsor a brick around the front flagpole that overlooks Lagoon Pond to ensure their experience is a part of the memories preserved at the site.

The rotating exhibitions include those dedicated to photography, history, and science, ensuring all members of the family will be able to find something interesting inside.

At #5 is the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum in Sag Harbor, New York, on Long Island. With a collection of objects related to the village's history of whaling alongside contemporary exhibits and events related to the culture of the area today, the museum aims to preserve Sag Harbor's history while offering context to the present day. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Periodic showings allow the public to view work by local artists, along with the chance to purchase art, providing a forum for these creative professionals to get their projects in front of a receptive audience. The capital campaign is the museum's effort to fully restore the Benjamin Huntting house, and supporters can help out by making donations online.

The #6 selection is the Kentucky Derby Museum. Next to Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, it offers hourly walking tours of the track, as well as a chance to see the stable, where you can check out the resident thoroughbred and companion pony. The garden terrace features the burial sites of five famous winners of the race dating back to 1933.

The garden terrace features the burial sites of five famous winners of the race dating back to 1933.

There are two floors of interactive exhibits covering everything from the history of the race to famous horses like Secretariat and American Pharoah. You can take part in a simulated race as a jockey, and even record yourself making the call as an announcer. The museum partners with Godolphin for an educational program to teach kids about the world of racehorses. The Outriders Society is the official volunteer organization of the museum, helping with everything from greeting guests to participating in research.

Finally, at #7 is the Clarke Historical Museum, which focuses on the legacy of Humboldt County, California. Located in Eureka, it shares a site with the Eureka Visitor Center and Humboldt Made, which promotes local products and artisan goods. The exhibits range from Native American artifacts and artwork to a collection of minerals and a recreation of a 19th-century room.

School tours are offered to give kids the chance to learn about the area and experience history and science outside the classroom. The Clarke is also responsible for the World War II Memorial Exhibit at the Humboldt County Airport. A great deal of online content is available for those interested in learning more about local veterans. The museum has elected to switch to 100% renewable energy, and offers a charging station for visitors to plug in their phones while they check out the books available at the museum bookshop.