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Thursday, February 11, 2016
The Log

Catalina Museum Exhibit Spotlights Island's Unusual Archaeologist

posted: 4/26/2013
Unearthing the Past -- In this old photo, amateur archaeologist Ralph Glidden is pictured showing two visitors his unusual museum of ancient American Indian remains and artifacts. -- Catalina Island Museum photo
AVALON -- Catalina Island Museum visitors will get a rare glimpse at the life and work of pioneer archaeologist Ralph Glidden, who conducted many excavations on and around Catalina Island in the last century. The museum will display a collection of his unusual finds and relics beginning May 11.            

“The Strange and Mysterious Case of Dr. Glidden” exhibition will include photographs, diaries, letters and journals only recently discovered. Running through Sept. 29, the exhibit also explores the sometimes strange and controversial life of the amateur archaeologist.            

Glidden conducted the first significant excavations into Catalina Island’s ancient history between 1919 and 1928. He dug up thousand of artifacts, including 801 American Indian burial sites from 105 locations around the island.            

According to the Catalina Island Museum, Glidden drew large crowds to an island “museum” tourist attraction dedicated to his research. He decorated the building in macabre fashion, festooning it with skeletal remains.            

Glidden moved to Avalon from Lowell, Mass. in 1896, where he worked as a carpenter before beginning to excavate American Indian sites on San Nicolas Island and San Miguel Island. He was chosen by the Heye Foundation to conduct all authorized digs in the island’s interior in 1919.            

The museum is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. For more information, call (310) 510-2414 or visit

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