Ralph Milliken began collecting Los Banos and the Greater Westside archives in the early 1920s.  In 1954 this resulted in the first Los Banos Museum.  The museum was expanded in 1968, renamed the Milliken Museum and has served Los Banos and the region well for over the past half century.

It became apparent around 15 years ago that in order to preserve the archives and adequately tell the story of Los Banos, the museum would need more space.  Over time the museum has become more of a warehouse for the expanding archives than as a venue to exhibit them.

In collaboration with Henry Miller descendants, options were explored and a vision for a new museum evolved.

This vision was vetted with city officials several years ago.  The city had adopted “Historic” Los Banos in recognition of the significance of the town’s history.  A preferred location was identified, next to the Henry Miller Plaza and Statue on the town’s Railroad Corridor.

The project was in limbo for years as the ownership of the parcel between the state and city was being worked out.

While the project was on hold a partnership surfaced.  The museum partnered with two regional water agencies that were looking to build new offices.  The concept is for the museum to be on the ground floor with the two water agencies on the second floor. 

The partnership is fitting since the history of Los Banos and the Westside is intertwined with the history of water development.

Once the parcel ownership issues were worked out between the state and city, the Los Banos City Council voted unanimously to direct staff to work with the museum  and water agencies to develop the project and an agreement that would provide for the transfer of the parcel for the council to consider. 

Project partners began working with the city while exploring the next step of securing an architect.  The vetting process was thorough and a few months ago resulted in an agreement with architects to come up with an initial design.

The architects are currently working on (1) where the facility, parking and landscaping will be located on the parcel; (2) the layout of the facility; and (3) a conceptual design and cost estimate for the building.

This work should be done in October 2022, at which time the Milliken Museum staff intend to roll out the conceptual design in a community forum.

We are extremely appreciative and humbled by the outpouring of support that we’ve had from the community, City of Los Banos officials and staff and Merced County. 

A good example of community support is a recent donation from the Los Banos Odd Fellows Lodge toward the building project.  

The project is the culmination of an effort initiated over a hundred years ago. As the French poet and novelist Victor Hugo noted, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”