The Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum celebrated its reopening Friday after being closed to the public for about five months.

With novelty oversized scissors, Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Board President Brooke Bradley cut through a red ribbon as Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino and museum curator Cindy Rasnick looked on.

First opened in 1974, the museum was built on city-owned land with funds raised by members of the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society. Since its opening, the museum has been administered by the society.

The renovation — which began in December — was funded by $120,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds. During the renovation, the museum received a new roof, a new T-bar ceiling, new heating and air conditioning. In addition, energy-efficient LED lighting was installed, the carpeted floor was replaced with vinyl and the walls were retextured and painted.

“If anybody had visited the museum prior to now, you would have felt like you were in your great-grandma’s basement or attic,” Bradley said. “It was old. It was dark — kind of dingy. We had some roof leaks — the place was in desperate need of an upgrade.”

The museum’s contents — with the exception of a large telephone switchboard — were stored in secure containers during the renovation to protect them from damage.

“We had a big telephone switchboard that had to move around inside the building — it was so heavy and vast that it couldn't be moved into a storage facility,” Rasnick said. “That was an item that haunted everyone.”

On Friday, several dozen people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the museum’s reopening. Council Member Mike Cordero, Santa Maria Valley Chamber CEO Glenn Morris and Santa Maria Fire Chief Leonard Champion were at the ceremony to see the upgraded building.

The historical society is thrilled the museum — which has artifacts that include tools from the late 1800s and arrowheads and stone tools fashioned by the Chumash Indians — will be reopened to the public, Bradley said.

With the renovation completed, the historical society will continue with the work it’s done over the past 50 years to preserve the history of the Santa Maria Valley, Rasnick said.

“One of the things we do is collect obituaries. We try to go back and find any that have been missed,” Rasnick said. “And a new project we’re working on is trying to digitize all the yearbooks. We’re collecting history now so that in 50 years people can come and see it. There’s is no end or beginning to what we do — it’s ongoing.”

Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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