Orinda Historical Society Museum Open for Visitors and Volunteers

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Orinda Historical Society Vice President Cheryl Cechvala (L), her daughter Ida Schultz, the youngest volunteer and President Alison Burns (R) are excited the museum is open again to share Orinda’s history and artifacts with the community.

    Instead of a ghost town, the Orinda Historical Society (OHS) museum was more like a ghost office when President Alison Burns jumped in and revamped it during the mid-pandemic lockdown.
    She and the nine other volunteer OHS board members brought it back to life – historically speaking.
    Located at 26 Orinda Way, next door to The Orinda Association and behind Café Teatro, Burns was excited to get the museum in shape for public consumption.
    “It was a pretty blank slate when I got hold of it and I love that I’ve been able to turn it around and actually point out to Orindans that such a thing exists,” said Burns, who lives in Orinda with her husband Patrick.
    Exposure helped when the OHS enjoyed a well-positioned booth at the Sept. 2022 Car Show. “One person later told me that his mother has lived in Orinda since 1971 and only learned Orinda had a historical society when she saw us in the middle of the road at the car show,” said Burns. “So, what I love – is a Brit making Orindans aware of their history.”
    Born in England, she moved to California from Singapore, was president of the Encinitas Historical Society in North San Diego County and has called Orinda home since 2015.
    Burns said the Orinda Historical Society was established in 1970. The museum showcases various books, photos, plaques, old menus, T-shirts, mortar, pestles and items going back to Native Americans.
    “We have an 18th century Spanish cannonball which was dug up in a 20th century Orinda backyard,” said Burns.
    She wants to see what else is out there – to be showcased in the OHS museum.
    “We don’t have nearly as much as we need,” said Burns. “I’ve started sending out appeals to people emptying out their attics, basements and garages for anything they think deserves to be seen by the rest of the community.”
    In addition to acquiring more artifacts for the museum, Burns would also like to collect more volunteers.
    “We need volunteers. We need anyone who’s interested in disseminating information about Orinda’s history,” said Burns. “We’d also like them to talk to people, show them our modest collection, help with computers, answer phones – basically whatever interests them the most. Many of them have probably lived in Orinda longer than I have, so we’d just like their knowledge. I would like people to work in pairs, to make sure it’s safe.”
    Burns, who published her book, Orinda, last summer, has high hopes for the future growth of OHS and its team of volunteers.
    “I have a wonderful team behind me, they’re so enthusiastic, knowledgeable, gifted and keen to make this work,” she said. “There’s so much I don’t know and they’re teaching me. Together we’re going to turn OHS into something the whole town can be proud of. And I love that Parks and Recs are behind us all the way.”
    Museum hours are every Thursday from 3 – 5 p.m. and the last Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information about OHS or for volunteering, email info@orindahistory.org.

Charleen Earley can be reached at editor@theorindanews.com.

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