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San Fernando Valley Museum of History opens in Northridge




The Museum of the San Fernando Valley tells the story of the large suburb with photography, artifacts and artwork.
The Museum of the San Fernando Valley tells the story of the large suburb with photography, artifacts and artwork.
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

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In a small office park in Northridge, just off Nordhoff street, you'll find Los Angeles' newest museum: the Museum of the San Fernando Valley is a small, volunteer-run museum dedicated to telling the story of America's suburb.

The museum has been around for almost 10 years now — it originally got started in 2005 as a collaboration between the area's different historical societies. But until recently, the Museum of the San Fernando Valley had no brick and mortar home. That changed when the museum set up shop in its Nordhoff location in November of this year. Now, with regular hours and free admission, the museum is open for the public to explore.

Scott Sterling is the president of the museum. His family has lived in the San Fernando Valley for three generations — over 100 years. He said the history of the San Fernando Valley follows a pretty typical California trajectory: Native Americans, Spanish settlers, American expansion. But the 20th century defined the Valley.

"A lot of the movie stars in Hollywood that were on the other side of the hill, they started moving over here to get a country house  — a house out in the country," he said. 

Directors began using the Valley for film shoots, too. "The Karate Kid," "Boogie Nights," "E.T." all were shot in the San Fernando Valley. "'It's a Wonderful Life' was shot in Encino in the summer time — that snow scene, going down that street."

The museum has exhibits featuring movie star photography, the Valley's large military veteran population and a space for local artists. Sterling said he wants the museum to be a starting-off point for visitors to the area.

"The Valley seems to be the lost middle child," he said. "People are always going over to Los Angeles for their culture. What I want them to see is that we have a great culture here in the San Fernando Valley. And that this is just the beginning. We can send them to all the other historical societies — they have their headquarters in some old buildings in the San Fernando Valley, buildings that people should see."

The Museum of the San Fernando Valley is open Tuesdays 1 p.m. - 8 p.m., Thursdays 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturdays 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. Admission is free. For more info, check out their website.