Lights, sounds and Living Legends are new attractions for the Founder’s Day event at Heritage of Americas Museum in El Cajon

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There are a lot of exciting things happening at the Heritage of the Americas Museum. With new LED lighting, the detail of the collections are undeniably seen in a new light. A new sound system brings a variety of experiences, depending on what part of the museum you are in. Four museums in one place, as Director Kathleen Oatsvall described the Americas, each area has special echo that fits the collection.

There are a lot of exciting things happening at the Heritage of the Americas Museum. With new LED lighting, the detail of the collections are undeniably seen in a new light. A new sound system brings a variety of experiences, depending on what part of the museum you are in. Four museums in one place, as Director Kathleen Oatsvall described the Americas, each area has special echo that fits the collection.

Wander through natural history and hear the sounds of dinosaurs as you look at the collection of fossils and bones. In the museums pre-Columbian Peruvian collection, Peruvian flute music adds renaissance to the entire collection of jewelry, pottery, clothing and tools. Hear the sound of a grizzly bear touring anthropology and good ole’ singing cowboys in the art section, composed of Western contemporary art.

From January 6 through February 23, Oatsvall said she could not be happier to be exhibiting for the first time in one place, the entire San Diego Legends art exhibit. And she said the timing is wonderful as it falls in with its big Founders Day reception on January 23.

The Legends Project began in 2013 by the San Diego County Library and the county’s Aging and Independence Services, it is an annual recognition of citizen leaders. All the portraits, painted by Mona Mills, who also painted the murals in the Americas, this exhibit epitomizes the lifestyles of local elders who lead by example. The legends illustrate lifestyles that embrace inclusion, spiritual integrity, healthy living, humanism, and commitment to community.

“This project is a tremendous tribute to the leadership of individuals who have greatly influenced our communities and who have proved a source of inspiration for the legends of the future. Their lives and accomplishments are a testament to the nobility of hard work, as well as respect for each other and one’s self,” said Library Director José Aponte.

Oatsvall said all of this in combination is important to her and those who love the museum as this extensive, exclusive collection of artifacts is the legacy of founder Bernard Lueck, who devoted his time and money to create a collection that any child could see for free.

“This is a really go tie in to our Founder’s Day and big reception,” she said. “We’re hoping since we have all of the Living Legends here that we can get these living legends and their families to come. Mona Mills will be there and she is calling all of them and encouraging them to come. So it’s a meet the artist reception as well. She’s painted the murals in the museum so it’s a great way to tie in the Living Legends with the museum.”

Oatsvall said the $30,000 LED  renovation was paid through individual donations, and an SDG&E rebate was very helpful in getting everything accomplished.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It’s different when it’s for the kids, but for new lighting, we’re thrilled. It’s fun and it puts people in a good mood. It’s all lit up and now you have singing cowboys. It’s happy.”

Oatsvall said when she talks to the classes, she tells them there are two rules. Not to run around and not to touch the museum collections. It has field trips booked every day in January already.

“But they don’t have to be quiet, not in this museum,” she said. “I want them to yell across the museum, ‘Johnny, come see this!’ No, I don’t want a quiet museum. We want them enthused.”

But she said the museum also appeals to all ages.

“The kids love it,” she said. “Then you have older people and they love it because they know who Charles Lindbergh is, and Gary Cooper, the Hearst collection. So I always say bring your grandchildren and bring your grandparents.”

The Heritage of the Americas Museum’s Founders Day reception is on Jan. 23, from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. It is located on the edge of the Cuyamaca College campus at 12110 Cuyamaca College Drive West in Rancho San Diego. For more information on the Americas, visit www.cuyamaca.edu.

Visit www.sdcl.org/legends for more information about the Legends Project.

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