The Joshua Tree National Park museum collections document the cultural and natural resources of the park and the park’s efforts to manage those resources. The collections also illustrate the story of the park, its environment, and the people who have inhabited it.
Park holdings include small collections of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and paleontological specimens; herbarium specimens; mining, homesteading, and prehistoric American Indian artifacts; administrative archives and photographs, and fine art. Significant collections include the William H. and Elizabeth C. Campbell archeological collections, historic photographs, and prehistoric ollas.
The Campbell Collection
American Indian Culture
It is rare for an intact basket to be found in the park. Woodrats and other gnawing creatures usually destroy these items, however the burden basket pictured on this page was found overturned on an olla in a rock shelter in 1975.
Cattlemen, Miners, and Homesteaders
After the California Gold Rush of 1849 ended, prospectors fanned out into the southern California deserts. An estimated 300 mines were developed in what is now the park. Hardrock mining tools, mining claims, historic photos, and personal items are represented in the collections.
The best known homesteading story is that of the Keys family and the Desert Queen Ranch. Material from the ranch highlights the hard work, ingenuity, and imagination required of a successful homesteading family, along with the products of daily life on an isolated homestead. Family photographs illustrate the ranch area and family activities.
Botany, Wildlife, and Insects
The collections include 78 bird study skins, 1,309 insects, 57 mammals, 633 botany, and 25 reptile specimens.
Archives, Photographs, and Library Collections
Photograph collections are comprised of historic photographs of the area, Keys family photo albums, and Stephen Willard fine-art prints.
Included in the research facility is a 6,000 volume research library encompassing cultural and natural resource information for the desert region. Research reports, oral history transcripts, desert studies volumes, National Park Service planning documents, video tapes, and newspaper and magazine articles are available for use.
Accessing the Collections
The museum collections and research library are open to researchers and the public, by appointment, Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Work space is available but limited.