Field Notes

Southern California Quarterly


By Jennifer Keil

Historian of Moulton Museum and Co-founder of 70 Degrees

Moulton Museum has shown true grit by sustaining the mission
statement established during strategic planning prior to the shutdowns. We stand for heritage, community, and philanthropy. L. F. Moulton & Co. used to cover nearly 22,000 acres and operated under the name Moulton Ranch. The icon of the cowboy in the West remains relevant for the Moulton family, which owns ranches to this day. As members of the American Alliance for Museums, we are committed to best practices. Our first exhibition, titled “1874: Into the West,” details the journey that twenty-year-old Lewis F. Moulton made that year from Boston to Southern California. J. P. Daguerre, his initial Basque business partner, also immigrated the same year. We will have an online webpage for guests to enjoy remotely and QR codes in our display for additional in-person information. The projected opening date is Fall 2021 [This date has changed to July 2022 opening with a community reception to follow].

The Moulton family hosts annual livestock roundups. The iconic “LM” brand has been used even before California established the
Bureau of Livestock Identification. Our video series has allowed us to capture modern and historic ranching practices while showcasing family-operated ranches. We prepared a film in order to demonstrate how cowboys round up the cattle for branding and veterinarians administer the vaccinations. Our goal is to provide twenty-first century clarity to this multi-generational tradition that has its heritage in Orange County. The history will be taught in local classrooms through our strategic partnership with the Capistrano and Saddleback District and private schools in our area. The Moulton Ranch has become the incorporated cities of Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel, LagunaWoods, Laguna Hills, and parts of Laguna Beach and Dana Point. These cities have been recognizing their heritage with anniversary celebrations. Aliso Viejo Ranch opened to the public on May 1, 2021. This 7.7 acre, multi-agency project contains rehabilitated historic buildings. The Moulton Museum provided historical artifacts and contributed to the exhibitions throughout the space. We integrated a QR code onsite to expand the historical narrative beyond the physical installation.
This site is part of our network of local, county, and state partnerships.

We were scheduled to open the Nellie Gail Moulton exhibit at Casa Romantica at the beginning of the California shutdown in
March 2020. Fortunately, the site was able to eventually open and we hosted a reception. Our team was dedicated to providing the fine art and sketches in a multimedia format. We created a webpage,, that includes an on-site film. [Nellie’s work was recently shown at the LCAD Gallery in Laguna Beach with a digital exhibit available online.] We conducted an in-person interview with Jane Barnes, Nellie’s granddaughter, featuring the historic gallery and her personal story. We have an ongoing oral history program with those who recall living on or near Moulton Ranch in the twentieth century. This series is available on our website.

Moulton Museum has been developing our website, which comprises online collections and research materials. We feature archival materials in our monthly newsletter and provide content in our social media accounts. We have been digitizing personal papers from Lewis Fenno Moulton dating from the 1800s that contain correspondence with other Orange County pioneers. These multilingual documents have been translated, transcribed, and uploaded to Omeka, an open source web publishing platform. Students from local universities have been able to conduct remote internships by collaborating with our team. We are developing our docent program with the Orange County Docent League. We look forward to hosting events at our outdoor space and inviting visitors into the remodeled physical building in 2021.

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