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Los Angeles, California

Valley Relics Museum

One man's vast collection of artifacts and ephemera from matchbooks and postcards to vintage neon signs and cars. 

The Valley Relics Museum is the creation of San Fernando Valley native Tommy Gelinas, who serves as the lone curator of the collection. His museum houses a masterful assortment of salvaged signage and other glorious gems, united in their celebration of commercial archaeology.

This fantastic assemblage is a non-profit operation, founded with the mission of preserving and telling the stories of the people who shaped this region of California, while highlighting its role in the larger nation’s development. Through the use of pop ephemera from decades past, the bulk of the collection tells the peoples’ story: vintage BMX bikes are given equal weight to menus from restaurants long since closed, while clothing and yearbooks belonging to the region’s prior generations are valued just as highly as well as a prized assortment of rare photographs and documents all hailing from the San Fernando Valley. 

Everywhere one looks, relics literally hang from the ceiling and are stacked against the walls. Building-sized neon signs, pulled directly from landmark restaurants, lean against the fringes of the museum. Meanwhile, at the center of the museum, sit several one-of-a-kind classic cars, including one with a set of longhorns affixed to its front bumper, and a pair of gleaming, ornamental pistols on each fender. Encircling this automotive circus is a curated selection of immediately recognizable cartoon statues of the Chipmunks, Pep Boys, and even a Big Boy.

By touring Gelinas’ Valley Relics Museum, visitors are afforded a real-world peek into the mishmash of colorful aesthetics and cultural relics that are so quintessentially “Old California” – one, these days, that can all too often only be found in fictionalized, fleeting glimpses via Turner Classic Movies.