By Galen Patterson
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in late November, Dr. Dana Hicks, curator of the Gilb Museum, invited Arcadia Weekly on a behind-the-scenes tour of museum grounds.
Visitors enter the building and are immediately met by a lotus-shaped fountain. The old metal sculpture stands near the wall, stripped of its former glory as a fixture in a pool flanking the entrance to Anoakia, where local legend Anita Baldwin called home. Next to the fountain rests a fire cart from the same location. These artifacts were saved when Anoakia was dismantled and turned into housing developments.
The tour begins with the beginning of Arcadia. A detailed exhibit of the local Tongva/Gabrielino tribe features recreated tools and clothing of the ancient Arcadian land-dwellers, which can be handled by the general population. Some of the artifacts are legitimate Native American relics from the greater Southern California area, and feature correlating explanations of curiously-shaped stones.
The wall continues the story of the land by explaining early contact the Tongva had with Europeans, and explains in detail the owners of Rancho Santa Anita from its beginnings to the ultimate founder of Arcadia, Elias “Lucky” Baldwin. A life-sized and smartly-dressed Lucky Baldwin mannequin stands across the aisle.
Across the wall from Lucky Baldwin, stands his daughter Anita in her own exhibit. Anita Baldwin’s exhibit is something to behold, with a scaled-down replica of Anoakia, personal letters magnified and displayed, and a video of detailed shots of Anoakia’s final tour is on continuous repeat among other curiosities in the exhibit. Anita Baldwin is often considered to be an important Arcadian for her societal impact and fostering of American culture. Among Arcadia’s treasures, Dr. Hicks works hard to preserve the Baldwin legacy.
Other exhibits include Arcadian Veterans, the World War I Balloon School which played host to several classic films and is now the Santa Anita Golf Course.
A large section is devoted to the films shot in Arcadia, which are screened in the Museum during summer months, accompanied by a briefing of the films given by a film historian.
An Arcadian Walk-Of-Fame showcases the many famous and illustrious lives to stem from Arcadia, including Stevie Nicks, a former student of Arcadia High School and member of Fleetwood Mac.
The museum houses a research library, printing machine, and scores of relics. A complex database pinpoints museum artifacts within the square-foot and depending on the size, within the square-inch.
Overall, the Gilb is filled with Arcadia as it occupies the land within and new exhibits feature the interests and work of its residents. The building, run by the city, is of the people, for the people.
The Gilb Museum was named for Ruth and Charles Gilb, philanthropists and Arcadia residents. Charles served on City Council, including four terms as Mayor of Arcadia. Ruth owned and operated a clothing store on Santa Anita Avenue. Both have passed on, but their name and pictures adorn the walls of a building filled with local treasures.