The New Museum

Preserving and Sharing the Gifts of Native Knowledge and Culture

The shaping of the Coachella Valley has many historic chapters. The Cahuilla people contribute volumes of historic knowledge about these precious lands, their Native culture, and Tribal influences on life today in Palm Springs and the surrounding region. Their story – or, more accurately, their centuries of stories – enrich the lives of Coachella Valley residents and visitors every day and form a living archive of Tribal history.

Preservation of these stories is critical. Making them accessible – together with Tribal artifacts and the unique signatures of the Agua Caliente Band’s way of life – is the primary role of Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. To fulfill its mission more fully, the Museum’s Board of Directors has launched a Capital Campaign to fund construction of a new museum facility in the heart of Palm Springs.

The new facility will make it possible to:

  • expand educational, community outreach, and other public programs especially for schoolchildren
  • increase Native and non-Native participation in Museum programs and activities
  • expand the Museum’s permanent exhibition
  • increase the number, size, and types of temporary and traveling exhibitions offered to the community
  • provide expanded research and archival resources to teachers, artists, and scholars
  • contribute to the economic development and cultural vitality of the Coachella Valley, attracting an estimated 150,000 visitors annually

Capturing a New Day

An elegant contemporary echo of traditional Cahuilla culture – basketry, pottery, and architecture – distinguishes the new Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, designed by Jones & Jones Architects & Landscape Architects. This firm includes Johnpaul Jones (Cherokee/Choctaw), who was lead designer for the National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian Institution. A complement to its desert surroundings, the Museum will draw travelers to the heart of the Coachella Valley and provide a congenial environment for guests and residents who come again and again.

"Through You, My Ancient People, I Am"

This message will greet visitors to the new Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and set the stage for the dramatic story of a culture that has struggled, persevered, and transformed. The many facets of this message that will emerge through the permanent exhibition are based on five central themes – land, knowledge, struggle, adaptation, and identity.

The new Museum includes:

  • An energy efficient building
  • A permanent exhibition gallery that will provide visitors with multi-media and interactive displays exploring ancient and contemporary Cahuilla culture.
  • A changing exhibition gallery that will enable the Museum to showcase indigenous arts and culture from around the globe from the past to the present. A variety of exhibitions will include those that result from the Museum’s affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, those from other museums, as well as exhibitions created from the Museum’s own collections.
  • An education center with facilities for the Museum’s educational programming.
  • A research library and archives to accommodate a collection of approximately 5,000 volumes of books, manuscripts, audiotapes, and videotapes on Cahuilla and other indigenous cultures. The Museum archives will preserve and maintain photographs and audiovisual collections as well as manuscripts, government documents, and maps, making this a premier resource for Cahuilla, southern California, and Native American research.
  • A curatorial and collections center that will support the Museum’s mission to preserve, study, interpret, and care for collection items.
  • State-of-the-art systems for temperature and humidity control, lighting, fire suppression, and security to provide the optimal preservation environment required for all collection items including baskets, pottery, paintings, textiles, and archival material for generations to come.
  • A multi-purpose auditorium that will host theatrical presentations, including Native American dance and music performances, film screenings, lectures, workshops, and conferences.
  • A Welcome Gallery whose design recalls the traditional Ceremonial House where generations of Tribal members gathered for community functions. The domed ceiling of the Gallery will dramatically depict the Cahuilla creation story. A terrace leading to the Gallery will be used for special receptions, performances, and demonstrations.
  • A museum store retail center for outstanding Native American arts and crafts that include paintings, prints, baskets, pottery, masks, jewelry, books, music, and sculpture.
  • The new Agua Caliente Cultural Museum will be a vital destination for tourists. It will make the City of Palm Springs and surrounding region proud of so distinguished a heritage, and will teach the important lessons that have come down through the ages.

For additional information about this project, please contact Executive Director Julia Bussinger at 760.833.8166 or