Social Media Editor
The University’s Cultural and Natural History Collections is what curator Anne Collier refers to as “a hidden gem.”
Since the opening of Lordsburg College in 1891, the collections have been home to over 70,000 historical items, each donated and arriving with their own unique story.
“Smiley,” the saber-tooth cat from the La Brea Tar Pits, located on the second floor of the Campus Center, is just one of many staples the University can call its own. La Verne is one of five institutions with a saber-tooth.
Yet with so many other historical items students are kept unaware of, not many know about the collection’s existence.
“There’s nothing worse than not having access,” Collier said. “We have this great secret and it’s limited by accessibility.”
Locked drawers and cabinets filled with fossils, from as early as the Ice Age, and cultural materials like pottery and musical instruments, are stored away for safekeeping rather than on display due to insufficient funds for display cases and space.
History is at the tips of students’ fingers with the kind of artifacts, objects and specimens waiting to be discovered right on campus grounds.
“I’d like to see this as a museum with student work in the archives,” Collier said. “Something like this gives students an opportunity to be well-rounded.”
Freshman criminology major Carla Gonzalez is a student worker at the collections and has found a fascination for the items stored away.
“I saw the University’s website about jobs and this was one of them, and tasks vary day to day,” Gonzalez said while sitting at a drawer cataloging textiles from the collections’ archives.
“The space isn’t big but [student workers] end up learning skills that can be carried over when they graduate,” said Felicia Beardsley, professor of anthropology and director of the collections. “For the collections itself, it becomes a real asset that shows we’ve preserved the past and are actively engaging with the past.”
Although the collections is not being actively used as a source for students academically, there are professors like Al Clark, professor of humanities, who incorporate the collections into their classes.
“My LVE 400 section is specifically about art,” Clark said. Students complete an assignment on a culture they find in the museum, where they must evaluate and reflect on the art.”
Clark said that the answer for more students to become aware of the collections would be to have more displays on campus showcasing the historical content being cared for.
“Lots of students walk right by the building,” Clark said. “There are many displays in Maineiro and LaFetra and the saber-tooth cat skeleton, but you can only do so much.”
Before the collections became what it is today, it went through multiple relocations on campus.
It was located on the second floor of Founders Hall, what is known today as Maineiro Hall.
For 50 years the collections had been named the Jaeger Museum after the generous contributions of naturalist Edmund C. Jaeger.
As a dean of the university, Beardsley said that at that time there was virtually no access to the museum for anyone other than students and faculty in the biology department who used the collections for teaching purposes.
It was not until 2015 that the Jaeger Museum relocated to the east side of campus off of Second Street and was given its current name.
“When we moved into the facility where it is now, we made a conscious effort to engage with the community as an educational host on and off campus,” Beardsley said.
Beardsley said she has hopes for what the collections can become in the future.
“Long term, we want to be an active educational resource that calls upon the school, surrounding districts and hosts workshops,” Beardsley said. “In that super long range thinking, there are collaborations with other institutions, getting our materials online that are searchable and viewable. It starts with the tiny baby steps we’re doing now.”
To visit the museum, those at the collections advise students have a purpose for their visit and set up an appointment by emailing email@example.com.
Jaycie Thierry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.