By Guy Ball

Volunteers have been taking advantage of the forced COVID shutdown by pushing ahead on the complete revitalization of the Tustin Area Museum in Old Town Tustin earlier than planned. This local museum has hosted thousands of adults and area students, often through classroom visits, to see how life in Tustin “was” in the “early days.”

Back in mid-1979, the fledgling Tustin Area Historical Society opened its museum downtown in the historic Knights of Pythias Building on El Camino Real and, with the exception of some minor collection changes and additions, the layout stayed the same for the last 40 years.

Several months ago, members cleared out the entire museum to refinish the original hardwood floor, repaint the walls, and replace all the lighting with brighter LED fixtures. A rear office wall was moved four feet to allow for even more exhibit room. Meanwhile, new glass cabinets and moveable walls were purchased to improve the exhibit space and allow for future flexibility.

One thing that has not changed, is the display of Tustin’s first fire engine, which was created years ago from a donated 1912 Buick touring car. The beautifully restored vehicle includes a handcranked siren -- particularly enjoyed by the school kids.

While some exhibits are still being finalized, the museum will have new areas for local sports heroes, Tustin’s military heritage, and city history.

This is in addition to displays featuring early business and agricultural tools and devices, as well Tustin Area Museum gets a major facelift as an area showing what life was like in early Tustin and North Tustin homes.

Thanks to a generous donation by a member, a new electronic research center was added that will allow visitors to view back issues of the original “Tustin News” community paper, as well as images from the society’s collection that aren’t on display, due to space limitations. The wide collection of local and county history books is available for research as well.

Technology upgrades now allow for three new wall monitors to be used for video presentations, displays, and special events. The museum gift shop has been expanded, and more emphasis will be focused on the front window display for passers-by.

The Tustin Area Museum is located at 395 El Camino Real at Main St. Visit TustinHistory.com or the Tustin Area Museum Facebook page for grand reopening information and hours.

Tustin Area museum gets a major facelift