Chances are, if you’ve been to the Heritage Museum of Orange County lately, it was for a wedding. Or perhaps your school-age child attended a field trip at the Santa Ana-based museum.
The museum sits on the southwest outskirts of Santa Ana, near Centennial Park and neighboring Fountain Valley.
Its main attraction is the Kellogg House, a Queen Anne/Victorian structure built in 1898. Other draws are the Gospel Swamp, the Gospel Swamp Farm, the Quilter’s Cottage and the John A. Maag Farmhouse, built in 1899, which is under renovation.
Though about 18,000 students visit per year, the museum is hoping to draw a wider audience, and a new photo exhibit might help.
Through Aug. 31, the Heritage Museum is presenting “Santa Ana’s 150th: Your Perspective, Your Reality, Our History,” which celebrates the city of Santa Ana’s 150th birthday with 150 photographs donated by the local community.
The images represent 150 stories — some personal, others organizational — of Santa Ana history, and they are dispersed on the grounds of the museum on themed panels highlighting work, agriculture, history, beauty and nature.
Kevin Cabrera, the Heritage Museum’s executive director, curated the exhibit, with assistance from an intern, Karina Trujillo.
“You could also say it was community-curated because what we really did is we reached out to community organizations and people around the community to submit photos of things they thought about Santa Ana,” Cabrera said. “Photos speak to people in different ways, but they also tell stories.”
Some of the organizations that contributed images include the Santa Ana History Room; the Cambodian Family, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit that serves the local Cambodian community; the Orange County Public Library and the Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center.
The exhibit features archival pictures of labor and religious organizations, city councils from years past, police forces, old high school sports teams, cheerleaders, agricultural workers, pageants and parades.
Some more recent photos are in the mix as well, including pictures of the 2018-19 girls’ basketball team at Century High School, the 2018 graduation ceremonies at Century and Godinez high schools, participants in the 2016 Las Posadas ceremony, and an indigenous woman in Santa Ana’s Women’s Day march earlier this year.
“It’s a look at photographs that might not have been seen for years,” said Kathy Williams, the museum’s director of education. “For me, that was the biggest draw for the exhibition. It’s literally from the perspective of people in the community. Previously, maybe only their families have seen them.”
The panels featuring the photos are scattered across the grounds of the museum, which covers about 12 acres. So visitors should expect some exposure to the sun and the elements, which can be pronounced during hot summer days.
“A lot of activities we do are hands-on based, experience learning,” Cabrera explained. “With that in mind, we don’t have that traditional indoor gallery museum exhibition space. So we wanted the exhibition to basically be around the grounds. As you’re experiencing the museum, you’re experiencing the different photographs.”
Near the photo exhibit panels is a newly finished mural, titled “Siempre Santa Ana.”
The mural features historic buildings in Santa Ana, such as the Old Orange County Courthouse, the African American Second Baptist Church and the Japanese American Sakioka Farms building, as well as portraits of important figures in Santa Ana history.
Some of these people include Gaspar de Portola, William Spurgeon, Zenobia Yorba, Virginia Guzman, Adeline Walker, Harriet Tyler and Rev. Norman Corbin, a civil rights activist.
The mural’s main artists are Abram Moya and Moises Camacho, although students from Valley and Godinez high schools also contributed.
“For us, that was a really important part of the process,” Cabrera said. “While they were doing a piece of artwork, they developed a grounded foundation in Santa Ana history.”
Cabrera noted that the museum has recently received grants for additional murals on its grounds. He said the future murals will probably reflect the diverse ethnic communities that reside in Santa Ana.
IF YOU GO
What: “Santa Ana’s 150th: Your Perspective, Your Reality, Our History”
When: Through Aug. 31; hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Where: Heritage Museum of Orange County, 3101 W. Harvard St., Santa Ana
Cost: $7 general, $5 for students and seniors
Information: (714) 540-0404; heritagemuseumoc.org