The Museumís collections, comprised of historical and cultural items from and about Santa Catalina Island, support the Museum's mission by fostering awareness and appreciation of our islandís heritage through their use in research, exhibitions and educational programs. Over the years the Museum has built collections, primarily through donations, which can be divided into the areas of history, archaeology and research archives. The collections, totaling approximately 150,000 items, fall into the following categories: archaeology, photographs, ephemera, newspapers, archives, postcards, three-dimensional historical collections, natural history, library, oral history, audio/visual and art.
The Museum features a large and comprehensive collection of Catalina pottery and tile which was manufactured on the island from 1927-1937. We have over 10,000 photographs and negatives documenting island life from the early 1880s until present day. We have boat models, sportfishing items, artifacts from the Island's steamships and much more.
The Museum is also the repository for all archeological digs on the island and has one of the largest collections of Island Gabrielino artifacts in the world. Items are from both archaeological site excavations as well as found pieces brought in as individual donations. The collection is of great scientific and cultural value.
The Glidden Collection of the American Indian
The Catalina Island Museum's collection of archeological artifacts related to Santa Catalina is unrivaled. The amateur archaeologist Ralph Glidden excavated the majority of the collection from 1919 to 1928. Glidden uncovered thousands of objects related to the 8,000 year history of human settlement on Catalina Island. Among the objects he discovered were mortars and pestles used for preparing food, knives of bone and stone, cooking stones used to boil soup in baskets, flutes made of bone, beads used as currency, arrowheads, war clubs, and fishhooks made of shell and weighted with stone. His digs often uncovered human remains, and perhaps Glidden's greatest discovery was an enormous ancient cemetery with hundreds of burial sites. In 1924 Glidden opened the first "museum" on Catalina Island - the Museum of the American Indian on the Channel Islands. It was, according to Glidden, "unlike anything else anywhere in this country." He based its interior on the catacombs in Rome, as well as a mortuary chapel on the island of Malta whose walls were decorated with motifs formed from the bones of monks. Glidden's museum reflects a clear disregard for the sanctity of human remains, and he expresses an unfortunate attitude pervasive at the time. Utilizing skeletal remains as a macabre form of decoration, the unsettling interior of his museum was a popular stop for hundreds of tourists. The museum closed in 1950, and in 1962 Philip K. Wrigley purchased Glidden's entire collection and donated it to the Catalina Island Museum. The Native American Grave and Repatriation Act of 1990 granted Native Americans the right to claim the remains of their ancestors and other sacred objects. Today, museums in the United States no longer exhibit Native American remains. All of the Catalina Island Museum's American Indian remains are housed at the University of California at Los Angeles and studied by archaeologists at the university's Fowler Museum.
For the past twenty years the Museum has received a grant from the Getty Foundation to fund an internship in the Collections Department. The Getty's Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program funds full-time summer work opportunities for students at Los Angeles-area museums and visual arts organizations, exposing the students to career possibilities in the arts.
We have worked with many wonderful students over the years. They have completed a variety of important projects for the museum including the documentation of artifacts, research for exhibitions and publications, transcribing oral history interviews, and assisting with education programs. We look forward each summer to introducing a college student to the joys of museum work.
In February 2005 we opened the Catalina Island Museum Research Center in the center of town. The Center centralizes our extensive archives and makes them accessible to researchers. The Center also houses offices for our Executive Director, Director of Operations and Curator. The archives include a nearly complete run of the local papers (The Catalina Islander began in 1914), approximately 10,000 photographs and negatives, hundreds of brochures and other ephemera, telephone directories, postcards and more.
The Research Center is located at the top floor of 220 Metropole, Avalon, CA 90704. Offices are open Monday - Friday. Appointments are required and dependent upon staff availability. Please fill in the form below to request an appointment.
Our curator and others have authored several articles and developed online exhibitions for ecatalina.com . Click here to view these sources of information on topics such as Catalina during World War II, the Chicago Cubs, the Bird Park, the Fire of 1915, Catalina Pottery and Tile, Catalina's Hollywood History and much more.