Last updated: 1/10/2012
Palm Springs, California
Street Address
219 South Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Mailing Address
901 East Tahquitz Canyon Way
Suite C-204
Palm Springs, CA 92262
phone: 760-788-1079
September through May
Wednesday - Saturday10 AM - 5 PM
Sunday12 PM - 5 PM
June through August
Friday - Saturday10 AM - 5 PM
Sunday12 PM - 5 PM
Museum Type(s)
Gift Shop
Group Tours
Michael Hammond, Ph.D., Executive Director
phone: 760-833-8166
Dawn Wellman, Curator
phone: 760-833-8170
Steve Sharp, Director of Development
phone: 760-833-8167
Jackie Bagnall, Office Manager
phone: 760-833-8165
Ashley Dunphy, Collections Manager
phone: 760-833-8175

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that preserves, interprets, and provides access to the history and culture of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Cahuilla peoples.


The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum inspires people to learn about the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Native cultures. We keep the spirit alive through exhibitions, collections, research, and educational programs.

The Spirit Lives, Through you, my ancient people, I am.


Founding in 1991, the Museum is governed by an independent board of directors chaired by Mildred Browne. Michael Hammond, Ph.D. is Executive Director.

In keeping with its mission, "the Museum inspires people to learn about the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Native cultures. We keep the spirit alive through exhibitions, collections, research, and educational programs."

Over the years, the Museum's programming has expanded to serve a broader population; educational activities have dramatically increased and, by necessity, have moved beyond Museum walls into the greater desert community; and the collection and archiving of important holdings has been diligent.

Today, this programming provides a thriving resource for Native and non-Native people and a dynamic forum for permanent residents and visitors of all ages. Offerings include quality exhibitions at the Museum, at off-site locations, and online; stimulating and enlightening lectures; classes with hands-on experiences with Native skills and crafts; a five-day film festival and other cultural special events; library and archives research opportunities; Museum tours; guided cultural hikes; and presentations for students in schools, and for civic and business organizations.

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is the first Native American museum to be part of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program. This special relationship provides opportunities to share resources in programming, collections, scholarship, and technical expertise -- and entitles the Museum to bring world-acclaimed exhibitions to the Coachella Valley.

To fulfill its mission more fully -- as well as the role of caretaker for the enormous gifts of Native knowledge and history -- and to embrace opportunities to involve a wider audience, planning is underway for the construction of a new 110,000 sq.ft. home for the Museum to be located in heart of Palm Springs on historic Section 14.

As planning for a new Museum moves forward, there is a commitment to the belief that knowledge is a tool for empowerment, autonomy, and the proper stewardship of the land and culture. Just as it was the role of Tribal elders to hold and pass on traditions, this world-class Museum will serve as a new kind of Tribal elder.

Preserving the past, documenting the present, and nurturing culture for the future, Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is a place to teach new generations the important lessons that have come down through the ages --to cultivate relationships, create partnerships, and share resources for the preservation and well-being of the entire community.

Artifact Collections

Museum collections focus on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Cahuilla bands, and include artifacts from other Native Americans and indigenous peoples worldwide. The collections are available by appointment to researchers and students.

A southern California basket collection of over 400 items features the works of Cahuilla basketweavers and their neighboring tribes. It is an excellent resource for comparative studies of styles, techniques, and materials.

Cahuilla ceramics include ollas, cooking pots, pendants, and pipes. Shell beads, bone tools, and numerous stone utensils such as manos, metates, mortars, and pestles used for food preparation are represented in the collections. Historic period artifacts from early habitation sites include items such as cans, bottles, china, and buttons.

The Tahquitz Canyon Archaeological Collection contains over 50,000 artifacts from the oldest and largest village site and is one of the most extensive excavation projects in California. The collection includes all field notes and photographs of the projects, as well as ethnographic and ethnohistoric reports. The Ruth Dunham Shepard Collection has extensive artifact material from the Coachella Valley with accompanying field notes. Additional archaeological materials from various locations are included.

Cahuilla history and culture of today are not ignored. Contemporary arts and artifacts are added continually to the collections.

Research Collections

Holdings of the Research Library include a Cahuilla reference section, a periodical and newsletter collection, a newsclipping collection, a children?s materials section, and a general collection of materials on Native American topics. The Library reference section is an excellent starting point for researchers interested in learning more about the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and Cahuilla culture.

Recommended primary source materials available include:

  • Mukat's People: The Cahuilla Indians of Southern California by Dr. Lowell John Bean
  • Aboriginal Society in Southern California by William Duncan Strong
  • The Cahuilla (Indians of North America) by Dr. Lowell John Bean & Lisa Bourgeault
  • Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants by Dr. Lowell John Bean & Katherine Siva Saubel
  • Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians by Francisco Patencio
  • Ethno-Botany of the Cahuilla Indians by David Prescott Barrows
  • Educational Programs

    Living Traditions programs for adults and children offer hands-on experiences with Native crafts such as basketry, pottery, musical instrument making, fry bread cooking, mineral pigment making, gourd art, and pine needle weaving. Class registration is free for Museum members.

    • Spirit Keepers lectures, classes, and panel discussions focus on Native American history and the culture of tribes in the Coachella Valley and other parts of the western United States.
    • Agua Caliente Cultural Museum presents the artistry of Native performers, filmmakers, actors, and writers. Special cultural events produced by the Museum feature Native storytelling, traditional bird singing and dancing, and a five-day film festival that showcases films by, about, and starring Native Americans and other indigenous people.
    • Tours of the Museum include a guided interpretation of permanent and seasonal exhibitions, the story of the Cahuilla Indians and their adaptation to the mountain and desert environments, and the art of Cahuilla basketry and pottery. Tours are limited to 30 participants. The length of tours is dependent upon group size and specific interests.
    • Guided cultural hikes for school groups feature an easy-to-moderate one-mile loop of beautiful Andreas Canyon. Hike commentary includes information on the natural resources and cultural heritage of the site, with a visit to a replica of an ancestral village of the Cahuilla people. Plants, animals, and the landscape are discussed to provide a context for understanding how natural resources were used in daily desert life. Artifact replicas of common tools are also used to illustrate aspects of Cahuilla culture. Hikes take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours depending upon topic focus and size of group.
    • Focusing on Cahuilla adaptations to desert and mountain environments, community outreach to groups explore topics such as shelter, clothing, hunting, food gathering and processing, and the use of tools. Presentations are tailored to focus on the specific areas of interest of each participating school, civic organization, and not-for-profit group. Replicated artifacts and a 15-minute audiovisual program that depicts the traditions and customs of Cahuilla culture may be included in these 45-minute presentations.
    • The library and archives of the Museum house a growing collection of materials on Native cultures, with a special emphasis on the Agua Caliente Band's history and Cahuilla culture. More than 5,000 book titles, periodicals dating from 1934 to the present, a Cahuilla reference collection, and finding aids to archival collections are available to the public by appointment Monday through Friday.
    • For information about scheduling a Museum tour, canyon hike, or group presentation, please call Claire Victor, Administrative Assistant/Programs, at 760.833.8169

    Founding in 1991, the Museum is governed by an independent board of directors chaired by Mildred Browne. Michael Hammond, Ph.D. is Executive Director.


    The Research Library does not maintain any genealogical materials. Researchers interested in pursuing genealogical studies can access such materials through the National Archives. These materials include: M595 Indian Census Rolls, 1884-1940, GSU-909228 Spanish Mission Censuses 1796-98, M1853 Census Rolls of the Indians of California Authorized Under the Act of May 18 1928, I32 California Indian Enrollment Applications 1928-33, and M1841 Revised Roll of California Indians Approved June 30 1955. The Huntington Library also offers online access to the Early California Population Project database, containing baptism, marriage, and burial records of each of the California missions dating 1769-1850.

    An online catalog of Library materials is currently not available.


    Please note that this is a research library only. Materials are not available for check-out. A photocopy machine is available in the library for your convenience. Photocopies are available at $0.15 per page. Opportunities to view library materials are available by appointment. Please contact the Museum at 760.778.1079 or to schedule an appointment. We unfortunately cannot accommodate same-day requests. For more information: 760.778.1079

    Access: General Public, Students, Scholars

    Appointment required: Yes


    "The Spirit" newsletter is published quarterly by the Museum.


    Wheelchair Accessible


    Museum Store

    Items for purchase in the Museum Store feature Native American books, jewelry, postcards, baskets, pottery, posters, and more.

    Gift Shop

    Group Tours

    This information, including business hours, addresses and contact information is provided for general reference purposes only. No representation is made or warranty is given as to its content or the reliability thereof. User assumes all risk of use. Stories USA, Inc. and its content suppliers assume no responsibility for any loss or delay resulting from such use. Please call ahead to verify the dates, the location and directions.
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