History of the Museum

When Philip K. Wrigley joined the effort to establish a museum on the island in 1953, he was concerned that much of Santa Catalina's heritage was being lost and little was being done to satisfy the many visitors who were curious to learn more of the island's history. The establishment of a museum that could bring art and culture to the island also fulfilled the desire of his father, William Wrigley, Jr., to provide a "playground" where people from every walk of life could seek edification as well as relaxation on one of America's most serenely beautiful islands. Thus, the original charter of the museum emphasized that the museum have a variety of exhibitions, a distinguishing characteristic, and the museum's founders emphasized, of any "well-rounded museum." Supported by Philip Wrigley's vision, the museum opened its doors on the ground floor of Avalon's historic Casino building on November 29, 1953, where the museum continues to reside to this day. 

The museum is one of the oldest institutions on the island, and is one of its most popular venues. Since its founding, the museum has built an outstanding permanent collection related to the 8,000 years of human settlement on Santa Catalina Island. The Catalina Island Museum is the repository for all archaeological digs on the island and its collection of archaeological artifacts related to the island is unrivaled. Currently all of the Catalina Island Museum's American Indian remains are housed at UCLA and studied by archaeologists at the university's Fowler Museum. 

Other holdings in the museum's permanent collection include an extensive collection of ceramics produced by Catalina Clay Products between 1927 and 1937. Highly collectible today, many pieces of "Catalina Clay' can still be seen in public places scattered throughout the island. The museum also possesses the single largest photographic archive related to island history. This material is critical to the museum's mission of relating island history to the over 1 million visitors that visit Santa Catalina annually.

An extensive renovation of the museum in 2011 created a Main Gallery dedicated to Catalina Island's history, added technology throughout the galleries, upgraded the museum's gallery lighting, and introduced a Traveling Exhibitions Gallery. The latter allows for the exhibition of material often not related directly to island history. The museum's Board of Trustees believe that this represents a significant step towards the future of the Museum, expanding the museum's audience and echoing the original intent of the institution's founders, to create a "well-rounded museum."

An additional benefit of the museum's renovation was the expansion of its Museum Store and Visitor's Center. The Museum Store carries an extensive collection of monographs and an additional array of products related to not only Catalina Island history but to the museum's special exhibitions as well. 

In 2003 the museum's Board of Trustees developed a vision for the future that included the construction of a new museum building to provide additional exhibition space and an expanded vault area for the care of the permanent collection. The museum purchased property for a new museum in 2009, which is located near the center of Avalon. 

Board of Trustees

2015-16 Board of Trustees

President: Steve Schreiner

Past President: Steve Mandel, M.D.

Secretary: Judy Hibbs

Trustee: Ron Bevins

Trustee: Greg Bombard

Trustee: Margaret Bray

Trustee: Jim Brown

Trustee: Joyce Brown

Trustee: Michael Fields

Trustee: Cliff Hague

Trustee: Wendy Harp

Trustee: Ann Hinchliffe

Trustee: Roy Rose

Trustee: Jim Simonds

Trustee: Angela Strege

Trustee: Chuck Wright