5 Must-See Museums In The Western U.S.
From the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains, the Western United States is rich with history and culture. While the region is often considered young in comparison to the East Coast and the South, it contains a number of institutions dedicated to preserving and presenting the memories of its diverse communities and landscapes. In no particular order, this list explores some top-flight museums showcasing art and tradition in the West.
Starting things off at #1, the Clyfford Still Museum offers nine galleries packed with work by the famed Abstract Expressionist painter. Located in Denver, it constitutes one of the world's most intact public collections of any major artist.
Exhibitions rotate several times each year, illustrating the development of Still's art and his path to abstraction. The Museum also hosts performances and concerts, hands-on art workshops, educational talks by local and world-renowned experts, and films. Additionally, it provides a home to Still's archive, as well as conservation and research projects.
The #2 entry is the Museum of Ventura County, celebrating the history, art, and culture of that portion of Southern California, which includes the Channel Islands. First opened in 1913, the institution began with collections of artifacts and curios bequeathed by Dr. Cephas Bard, a Pennsylvania doctor who came to Ventura after the Civil War.
Today, the Fine Arts and Historical Artifacts collection includes more than 30,000 objects and works of art. Changing and permanent exhibits interpret local history and culture in order to preserve knowledge of, and stimulate interest and appreciation for, Ventura County. The organization additionally maintains an Agricultural Museum dedicated to the region's farming and ranching history.
For #3, we have the Heard Museum. Dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art, it was founded by the eponymous family in 1929 in Phoenix, Arizona, then just a small Southwestern town. The organization aims to present the stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective and stage exhibitions that showcase the beauty and vitality of traditional and contemporary art.
The Museum's activities revolve around collecting, preserving, and presenting art ranging from ancestral artifacts to contemporary paintings and jewelry. In addition to exhibitions, there are hands-on activities for visitors of all ages, as well as educational initiatives for K-12 school groups, families, and adult learners, both at the Museum and off-site.
In the #4 spot, Los Altos History Museum gathers and presents stories and artifacts that bridge the past and the present in California's northern Santa Clara Valley. It aspires to be the premier local center for intergenerational and intercultural connections through exhibits, events, and educational efforts.
Located in one of the few remaining apricot orchards of Santa Clara Valley, the Museum explores the rich history of local people, and looks at how the use of the land over time has transformed the one-time agricultural paradise into the high technology hub of today's Silicon Valley.
Wrapping things up at #5 is the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum. It commemorates the only off-reservation Indian boarding school in Nevada from 1890 through 1980. The organization's Living Legacy project aims to educate visitors about the experiences of Native American children who were removed from their homelands, families, and cultures and forced into these institutions, and also works to celebrate their resilience.
The Museum showcases the Native land that Stewart occupies, and prompts visitors to imagine the way it looked before the American settler colony was established. The storytelling room features an exhibit about the four main language groups of Nevada, and the Museum's hallway features changing exhibits of class photos and student art from when the school was in operation. A permanent display traces the institution's history.