The Community Heritage Center, a facility at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, is host to a number of exhibits, displays, and other attractions that are just waiting to be seen, interacted with, and maneuvered.
However, since its inception in November of 2021, the Heritage Center has yet to see the numbers and flocks of people it once had anticipated would visit.
“Our goal is for this to be the story of our community, and we want as many people to be a part of it as possible,” says Amy Cross, Director of Operations for the Clovis Veterans Memorial District.
Cross believes that the one thing missing from the Heritage Center is indeed, the people, the community, coming in and exploring the different aspects that the Heritage Center may provide, distinct from other museums such as the Big Dry Creek Museum, or the Clovis Museum.
These separate galleries however assisted the CVMD in the creation of the Heritage Center, and instead of thinking of each museum as a separate entity, one may do best to think of the Heritage Center as a culmination of multiple local Central Valley Museums.
“We do a lot of collaboration with other museums, because it’s a big story to tell,” Community Heritage Center Coordinator Vaughan Rios says about the work that’s been done with other museums around the Valley.
A small list of entities that have helped the Heritage Center include the Big Dry Creek Museum, the Legion of Valor, the Sierra Historical Society, the California Military Museum, and the Museum of the Sierras.
Each of these organizations helped with specific aspects of the Heritage Center whether it be donated items such as military equipment for the World War I display, or helping to build the flume exhibit as the Museum of the Sierras did.
The idea behind the creation of the Heritage Center first started in 2014 when small meetings were held with the discussion on preserving the heritage and ideals of the community of Clovis.
According to Cross, besides telling separate stories of perseverance and hard work, the Heritage Center also stands as a symbol of how the community of Clovis came together around the time of World War I.
“I think that story can be seen into transitioning to how our school district was founded and how the city has grown. I think it really goes to show the grit of Central Valley and its growth,” said Cross on the overall theme of the Heritage Center.
Rios added, “I think part of it too is a lot of people think of this as ‘no man’s land’, it’s not LA or it’s not San Francisco, and it’s like, ‘Well, wait a minute, we have really cool stuff going on here. We want to have a reason for people to stop in and show off for a minute.’”
A part of that “showing off” that the Heritage Center intends to do is the story of the multiple different races and ethnicities that live not only in Clovis but throughout the Central Valley.
The reasoning for not doing so already has come from the modest amount of visitors that they have had so far. The displays currently at the Heritage Center are still the same from their opening in 2021.
“We really want to expand on some of the themes that we currently have so that we can help tell the entire story,” says Cross as she laments on those who have visited the Heritage Center so far.
“There are so many stories that we’re telling, but there are so many more stories that, in this time frame [World War I], that we can still tell. We’re looking at telling the Japanese-American story, the Sikh story, all the different cultures of the Valley, how they came together and how they were apart of the farming and the agriculture and the ranching.”
Finally, one of the most important aspects of the Heritage Center has been its volunteerism, a feature that it hopes to continue.
There are multiple different positions to get involved with the Heritage Center including greeting, research, or helping out with field trips and tours.
Rios reminded that representation at both ends of the age spectrum are key to helping the Heritage Center grow and continue as a museum in both Clovis and the Central Valley.
“We’ve had some younger people come in [to volunteer] and it’s really been interesting to see their perspective and what they find really fascinating…We’re definitely looking for a broad spectrum of volunteers.”
The interactive displays definitely remain one of the key exhibits in the Heritage Center that hope to get more visitors to come in.
Being given the opportunity to hear what the founders of the City of Clovis may have or actually were recorded saying at one point in time gives audiences the chance to feel more attuned to how Clovis was actually built.
But the story remains that the Heritage Center is not just about Clovis. “I think you can’t tell the Clovis story without telling the Valley story,” mentioned Cross when speaking about both histories of Clovis and the Central Valley.
“Farming wasn’t just a Clovis thing, it was regional. The flume started in the Sierra’s and came here. We’re not looking at boundaries, we’re looking at the history of our community as a whole.”
The Clovis Veterans Memorial District and their Community Heritage Center look to continue to tell the story of how the Central Valley and Clovis have impacted each other over the years.
With the intended public’s involvement, they hope to bring even more production value to the community.
The only way to find out if they have succeeded in this, is to go and visit Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM- 5 PM.