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Museum Closed Due to Lack of Volunteers

As today’s generation continues its love affair with futuristic gadgets, an older generation worries about the preservation of artifacts from our past.

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The , which specializes in maintaining and exhibiting unique historical artifacts of South Gate, has been closed until further notice.

The museum houses a diverse group of South Gate historical items: speakers from the old drive-in theater, farming tools from this once rural city, personal objects from Nobel Prize winner and resident Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg, and the first and last tires that were made at the defunct Firestone plant.

Volunteers had long maintained the museum, but they no longer have the necessary manpower to keep it open.

“The membership has retired, moved on to be with their children in other cities, or just gotten older,” said Brian Kaiser, a longtime volunteer of the museum. The museum had an estimated 60 volunteers over 20 years ago, but now only has a total of four.

“There is just handful of us left,” Kaiser said.

The museum was already in a fragile state prior to its closing. It could only manage to open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. because its honorary museum president could afford the time to volunteer for the whole day.

However, this is no longer the case because this important volunteer is ill and will not be able to participate for some time. To make things worse, all current volunteers are too busy to jump in and keep it open.

“Now it is all falling on one person,” said Kaiser. “If we had more people we could  [open it] more days.”

The younger generation's seeming lack of interest in history and abiding interest in technology are seen as obstacles for the museum as it tries to recruit new help.

“They just have a fascination with new technology and electronics,” said Kaiser.  “Some young people see this [museum] as old stuff, and they don’t relate to it.”

The current volunteers are all over 60, which has led them to worry about the future of the museum. 

"That’s one of our constant concerns," said Kaiser. "If there is nobody left who cares, who is going to do anything?"

Lack of volunteerism is a problem that many organizations face and economic difficulties are contributing factors.

“It is tough, especially in a working-class community like South Gate,” said Paul Adams, city director of . Adams acts as the city’s liaison with the museum and is currently helping the museum volunteers deal with their dilemma. “When you’ve got kids at home and are working two or three jobs in order to try to make ends meet, [this] will make it difficult.”

Despite the difficulties, lovers of history insist a strong conservation of things past is important for the collective strength of a community since it can provide citizens with an understanding of what is to come.

“Our connection with our past is what provides us with the security to reach into our future,“ said Adams. “I have gained great appreciation for this community, for what it's done in the past, and what it is capable of doing in the future.”

If you wish to volunteer at the South Gate Civic Center museum, contact Paul Adams at 323-563-5478. 

Jaime Garcia December 19, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Although the museum may close, the city may want to consider displaying the items in other municipal or county buildings such as city hall, parks and rec building, local high schools, libraries, etc... this way items will still be visible to public view.... You could also contact a local Firestone shop to see if they would like to display the tires for example..
Alejandro Lopez de Haro December 19, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Thank you for your comment Jaime! Is there anyone else who has a different take on the future of the museum?
Gloria Medina December 28, 2011 at 06:30 PM
There young people who is interested in preserve our cities's history. It is true that we need more volunteers to keep open such places to display our history. Here in the City of Bell, we have the privilege of having the James George Bell House which is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm due to the Bell Chamber of Commerce volunteer time. We learned that the youth is interested in the past, but we need to promote the museum and let them know that not many cities has the honor of having such a history, that they need to be proud of having such items in their own town. If there is anything we can help, please let us know. Gloria Medina 323/560-8755.
Alejandro Lopez de Haro December 28, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Thank you for your comment Gloria. Is there anyone else from another neighboring city with ideas on how to help?
Mayra Aguilar February 22, 2012 at 06:23 AM
I never got to visit the museum even though I wanted to. From the look of the pictures, the museum looked like an old thrift store. I think if they redid the look of it, it would bring in more people. Have it tell a story of the city. For example, paint a wall like a drive in and have the old speakers propped up or paint a wall to resemble the farming times w/ all the tools. Get me? Also, if the schools had history clubs, maybe the students could volunteer there. They could hold fundraisers like a drive-in movie night, but instead have the community come out in lawn chairs to the parking lot & project the movie by the building.

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