EASTERN CALIFORNIA MUSEUM HISTORY
Early in 1928 rapid changes occurring in Owens Valley forced a realization that much historical data and material concerning Inyo County would soon be lost unless means of preserving them were found. At the same time, a group of young men were interested in collecting the remains of Indian culture, locating and photographing their petroglyphs and in any way possible recreating the history of a partly vanished way ot life Among these young men were Ralph Bell, Frank Parcher, Charles Forbes, and William Sanford. Frank's mother, Mrs. W. C. Parcher, shared their interest. She also thought that the history of pioneer life in this region should be preserved.
It was her plan that a museum be created to exhibit these varied collections. This resulted in the formation of the Eastern California Museum Association with Mrs. Parcher as first president; a position she held for several years. She strove from the first to develop a broad, comprehensive collection with departments of history, geology, botany, mineralogy, and Indian anthropology. How well she succeeded may be seen by even a casual visit to the museum.
The Eastern California Museum Association was formally organized Sunday evening, May 5, 1928, at the Bishop Branch of the Inyo County Library. The purpose of the organization was to collect, house, protect, preserve, and classify objects and natural landmarks of historic and scientific interest found in Eastern California and adjacent fields.
The first officers elected for the organization were Mrs. W.C. Parcher as President, Lawson Brainard as Vice President, and Charles Forbes as, Secretary/Treasurer. The other members of the Board of Directors were Douglas Robinson, William A. Irwin Jr., Bessie T. Best, Frank M. Parcher, and G. Walter Dow. Frank Parcher was appointed to be the museum's first Curator. The committees created by the Board of Directors were many. They covered all of the "ologies," plus History and Landmarks, Publicity, Research, House and Finance.
The committee chairmen were knowledgeable, ambitious, civic-minded people. Sparked by the enthusiasm of the first officers and committee chairmen, the immediate need of housing was obvious. Search for the means to provide housing began soon after the Association was formed and will continue as long as there is a museum; there is never enough room. The following are the major accomplishments regarding the development and acquisition of the Museum's various collections and some of the major developments that led to the completion of the numerous buildings that currently make up the museum "campus" and the preservation of other historical landmarks in Independence.
- May 5. Eastern California Museum Association was organized.
- January. Museum Association was granted the use of a room in the basement the Inyo County Courthouse.
- The Inyo County Board of Supervisor approved permanent use of the room in the basement of the Courthouse and a budget of $500.
- Second room in the Courthouse is provided by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, and a $5,000 budget.
- Engine No. 18, the Slim Princess Narrow Gauge Railroad Steam/Diesel Engine donated and installed in Dehy Park, Independence.
- Dr. Louis Leakey was the speaker at the 1965 annual dinner.
- Inyo County bought a portion of the Rose Black Collection of Paiute—Shoshone baskets and display cases. The more than 400 baskets from the Black Collection still form the core of the museum’s acclaimed basket collection.
- G. Walter and Maude Dow, who built the Dow Hotel in Lone Pine and the Winnedumah Hotel in Independence, donated the bulk of the money for construction of a new museum building on Grant Street in Independence. The building was dedicated in 1968 to memory of Mr. and Mrs. Dow.
- The Inyo County Board of Supervisors accepted the new building as a gift to the County and created the Inyo County Museums Department with a yearly budget to operate the museum. Museum staff became county employees.
- Commander's House restored.
- Beginning of construction of buildings that will become “Little Pine Village,” located behind the Museum building. Buildings include the Assayer's Office, the Hanna House, Livery Stable, Brewery Office, Pete Mairs' utility shack, stock room, and outhouses (a two-hole and three-hole).
- Wagons and other artifacts are donated and become the basis of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power historic equipment yard.
- Manzanar exhibit started. It eventually grows to include a replica apartment and hundreds of photos and artifacts donated to the Museum by Shi and Mary Nomura.