Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs, California, is a place to explore the rich cultural history of the earliest inhabitants of the Palm Springs region through engaging exhibition, classes, and lectures.

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The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve, protect, and provide access to the history of the indigenous people of the Palm Springs region including the Cahuilla Indians and other native peoples.

The museum is managed by a board of directors and offers community programming that provides a resource for both Native and nonnative people to discover and explore the cultural and historical background of the earliest people of the Palm Springs area. The Museum also features onsite exhibitions, lectures, classes that offer hands on experiences with Native American crafts, festivals and workshops, special events, research and archival opportunities, guided tours, and outreach to the community.

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum was the first museum with a focus on Native American heritage to be inducted into the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program with brings world renowned exhibitions to the area.

The Collection

The Collections at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum are all centered around the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Native Americans in the region. There are also artifacts from indigenous people from around the world and these collections are available to researchers and university students by appointment only.

The Basket collection contains over 400 items that were weaved by Cahuilla and neighboring tribes. There are also collections of ceramics and the Tahquitz Canyon Archeological Collection that has amassed more than 50,000 pieces that were excavated from sites in California. The Ruth Dunham Shepard Collection from the Coachella Valley Site is also held at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum with the accompanying field notes from the excavation.

The Research Library includes a Cahuilla reference section, a newspaper and periodical sections, children’s materials, and a general topics area. The Research Library is available by appointment, but can also be accessed online. There are no genealogical database information available.

Archival Collections is the orginal documentary materials that have been preserved and protected by the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. These artifacts and documents are deemed to have permanent historical value and reflect evidence of the life and culture of those who created them. The collections include sound and video recordings, physical objects, photographs, manuscripts, and paper documents, and interviews. This collection is only available to researchers and by appointment.


The Exhibitions at the Agua Caliente are engaging and many are interactive and hands on. Each exhibit portrays the history, culture, or life of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and other Native peoples. The exhibits at the museum are a mix of core and temporary. Each fall, the Curatorial department creates a new exhibition that will be featured focusing on a new aspect of the Cahuilla History. The Core Exhibits at the museum educate visitors on tribal practices, economics, beliefs, religion, language, key events in history, and other cultural highlights.

Flora Patencio Collection- This permanent exhibition highlights Flora Patencio, a leader amongst the Agua Caliente people and is a study in basket weaving. The Cahuilla Indians are renowned for their amazing skill in basket making.

Cahuilla Culture & History- The Museum is largely an exhibition of the story of the Cahuilla people and their history told through Photographs, Maps, and text, as well as oral histories and artifacts.

Educational Opportunities

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum as part of the Smithsonian Institute offers an enriching, educational programming department to the Coachella Valley and visitors of the Museum.

Living Traditions- These classes, demonstrations, and outdoor explorations are for the whole family and provide hands on activities that educate participants on Native American skills and craft. Some of the activities that families can participate in are guided, educational, nature hikes, basket weaving classes, plant identification and growing classes, and more.

Voices of Culture- These programs included a variety of lectures, discussion panels and cultural performances that focus on or highlight Native American history or way of life in the Western US. These are all public programming do not require paid admission. Some of these programs include book talks, Bids singers and dancing panels, film screenings, festivals, and storytelling events.

Community Outreach-As part of their educational outreach, Agua Caliente Cultural Museum provides programs for schools and community groups such as field trips and group guided hikes that achieve learning goals. Tours have limited capacities and do require reservations and planning.

219 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California, 92262, website, Phone: 760-778-1079

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