MEHER MOUNT

9902 Sulphur Mountain Road
Ojai, CA 93023-9375

Phone: 805-640-0000
Email: info@mehermount.org

HOURS

Wednesday-Sunday: Noon to 5:00 p.m.
Monday & Tuesday: Closed

MANAGER/CARETAKERS

Buzz & Ginger Glasky

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Sam Ervin, Preident
Ron Holsey, Vice President
Ursula Reinhart, Treasurer
Jim Whitson, Director
Richard Mannis, Director

OFFICERS

Margaret Magnus, Secretary

9902 Sulphur Mountain Rd
Ojai, CA, 93023
United States

(805) 640-0000

Story Blog

Anecdotes, activities and stories about Meher Mount - past, present and future.

Space to Tell the Meher Mount Story

Margaret Magnus

By Margaret Magnus

Meher Mount continually welcomes many first-time visitors who know nothing of Avatar Meher Baba and not very much about Meher Mount. They often ask: “What is this place?” and “Who is Meher Baba?”

Followers of Meher Baba often are curious about the history of Meher Mount and how it came to be. Some ask for more details about Meher Baba’s 1956 visit.

All of these questions are part of the Meher Mount story — Avatar Meher Baba, His 1956 visit to Meher Mount, Agnes Baron and the founding of Meher Mount in 1946, and the purpose and role of Meher Mount.

Over the years, there have been various displays, photos and quotes at Meher Mount to help answer these questions.

 “THE ESSENCE OF OJAI” exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum in 2003 featured Meher Mount along with four other spiritual centers in the area. The relevant pieces of this exhibit were later installed at Meher Mount to help orient visitors. (Photo: Sam Ervin, 2003)

“THE ESSENCE OF OJAI” exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum in 2003 featured Meher Mount along with four other spiritual centers in the area. The relevant pieces of this exhibit were later installed at Meher Mount to help orient visitors. (Photo: Sam Ervin, 2003)

“The Essence of Ojai” Provides the First Orientation

In 2003, the Ojai Valley Museum approached Meher Mount about being included in “The Essence of Ojai” exhibit at the museum which featured five spiritual groups in the area.

 A SECTION OF THE DISPLAY PANEL for “The Essence of Ojai” exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum in 2003. The photos are of Agnes Baron (1907-1994), co-founder and lifetime caretaker of Meher Mount. (Photo: Sam Ervin)

A SECTION OF THE DISPLAY PANEL for “The Essence of Ojai” exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum in 2003. The photos are of Agnes Baron (1907-1994), co-founder and lifetime caretaker of Meher Mount. (Photo: Sam Ervin)

Then caretakers Ray Johnston and Elizabeth Arnold – with input from the Meher Mount board – pulled together photographs and wrote descriptions of Meher Baba, Meher Mount, and Agnes Baron for the exhibit.

“The Essence of Ojai” opened on July 19, 2003, and included the Chumash Indians, the Krotona Institute of Theosophy, the Ojai Foundation, the Krishnamurti Foundation of America, and Meher Mount.

After the museum exhibit closed, the eight-foot exhibition panels were given to Meher Mount and put on display in the meeting room of the Visitor Center.

Later, due to space concerns, the photographs and information boards were deconstructed and hung on the walls in the reception foyer and meeting room at Meher Mount.

In the early 2010s, as these boards and photographs faded and became difficult to read, caretakers Leslie and Samantha Bridger replaced them with framed photos and quotes from Meher Baba.

An Empty Visitor Center Creates An Opportunity

After the 2017 Thomas Fire with no one in residence in the Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters, there was the opportunity to take a fresh look at the possibilities for visitor orientation.

 ONE OF THE STONE SIGNS guiding visitors to check in at the reception area in the Visitor Center at Meher Mount. (See related story,  “Stone Signs & Markers Are Installed.” ) (Photo: Margaret Magnus, 2016)

ONE OF THE STONE SIGNS guiding visitors to check in at the reception area in the Visitor Center at Meher Mount. (See related story, “Stone Signs & Markers Are Installed.”) (Photo: Margaret Magnus, 2016)

Visitors first stop at the reception area at Meher Mount before exploring the property and going to Baba’s Tree.

Here they sign in, ask questions, pick up information pamphlets and cards about Meher Baba and Meher Mount, and wait to be directed to the next step.

Sometimes they pause and look at the Meher Baba quotes and photos on the wall. A few ask specific questions. Others look puzzled, not sure what to ask. Some are just curious, even wondering how they ended up at Meher Mount.

Creating a more comprehensive display — similar to the long-gone museum exhibit — to tell the Meher Mount story is always on the “to do” list. And, there always seem to stumbling blocks. Where to start? How to best use the limited wall space? How to naturally guide visitors through the information? What to include?

Coincidentally, the Thomas Fire recovery and renewal efforts provided an opportunity to revisit these discussions and make progress in fashioning the space to tell the Meher Mount story.

A Natural Flow for Visitors

Conceptually, the Meher Mount wall exhibit could start in the reception area and continue to the meeting room.

 A PILASTER creates a man-made barrier to the natural flow of visitors into the meeting room in the Visitor Center. Visitors would often pause because they were not sure where to go next after signing the guest book. (Photo: Margaret Magnus, June 21, 2018)

A PILASTER creates a man-made barrier to the natural flow of visitors into the meeting room in the Visitor Center. Visitors would often pause because they were not sure where to go next after signing the guest book. (Photo: Margaret Magnus, June 21, 2018)

Thus, a first step in developing the narrative was to create a more natural flow from the reception foyer to the larger meeting room.

Once in the meeting room, visitors could discover more of the Meher Mount story. Logically, they would also be going toward the door leading outside to Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard area.

The fireplace is one of the last remaining artifacts of Meher Baba’s 1956 visit to Meher Mount. Since the Thomas Fire, Baba’s Fireplace has become a more integral part of the visitor experience. (See related story, “Opening the Door to Baba’s Fireplace.”)

Designer/architect friends of Meher Mount, Byron and Nancy Pinckert, suggested removing a non-supporting pilaster that stood between the foyer and the meeting room.

In removing this pilaster, visitors no longer had to “peak around the corner” to see what was on the other side. There was an open view into the meeting room and an unspoken invitation to explore further.

 THE PILASTER HAS BEEN REMOVED creating a more natural opening from the foyer to the meeting room in the Visitor Center. In this photo, the meeting room has been set up for Meher Mount’s Anniversary Celebration on August 4, 2018. (Photo: Margaret Magnus)

THE PILASTER HAS BEEN REMOVED creating a more natural opening from the foyer to the meeting room in the Visitor Center. In this photo, the meeting room has been set up for Meher Mount’s Anniversary Celebration on August 4, 2018. (Photo: Margaret Magnus)

Wall Space for the Meher Mount Story

With this barrier gone, there was now the possibility to create a wall exhibit that started in the foyer and naturally guided visitors around the corner.

The next step was to create more wall space around the corner for this narrative.

In the meeting room, there is one long wall that can be used for display and information. However, in the middle of the wall was a door to the private caretaker quarters which broke up that potential display space.

 THE DOORWAY to the private Caretaker Quarters was not used and broke up the extended wall that could be use for information display purposes. The painting of Avatar Meher Baba is by Lyn Ott. The door to Baba’s Fireplace is on the left temporarily blocked by a table with a pink tablecloth. (Photo: Margaret Magnus, June 21, 2018)

THE DOORWAY to the private Caretaker Quarters was not used and broke up the extended wall that could be use for information display purposes. The painting of Avatar Meher Baba is by Lyn Ott. The door to Baba’s Fireplace is on the left temporarily blocked by a table with a pink tablecloth. (Photo: Margaret Magnus, June 21, 2018)

The Pinckerts suggested closing off the door to create a continuous exhibition wall space. In checking with different previous caretakers, it was discovered that they had kept the door locked and never used it. Since this door would not be missed, it was decided to close it off.

As a bonus, the immediate space behind the door — which leads into a hallway — could be turned into a closet for more storage.

By closing off the door and creating one continuous wall, caretaker privacy is insured, there is more space that can be used for orientation and display, and the additional storage closet is a plus for all.

 THE PUBLIC DOOR to the private Caretaker Quarters at Meher Mount is gone. The new doors and windows were installed days after this photo was taken. Later, Arturo Lopez, who did the work, matched the wall texture and painted the entire interior of the building to coordinate with the new doors and windows. (Photo: Sam Ervin, June 25, 2018)

THE PUBLIC DOOR to the private Caretaker Quarters at Meher Mount is gone. The new doors and windows were installed days after this photo was taken. Later, Arturo Lopez, who did the work, matched the wall texture and painted the entire interior of the building to coordinate with the new doors and windows. (Photo: Sam Ervin, June 25, 2018)

 SAM ERVIN writing specifications for the new closet built in this space after the door is closed off on both sides. (Photo: Margaret Magnus, June 21, 2018)

SAM ERVIN writing specifications for the new closet built in this space after the door is closed off on both sides. (Photo: Margaret Magnus, June 21, 2018)

Telling the Meher Mount Story

The physical space for telling the Meher Mount and Meher Baba story has been created. Now begins the process of designing and using that space. There are elements to identify and collect, a narrative to be written, photographs and artwork to prepare, and components to build.

An added bonus will be creating any shelves, tables, donation boxes, and other items from the salvaged wood from the fallen limbs of Baba’s Tree. (See related story, “Baba’s Tree — Saving the Fallen Wood.”)



NOTE

As part of the six-month exhibit, “The Essence of Ojai,” at the Ojai Valley Museum, there were four evening programs focused on Meher Mount. Board President Sam Ervin, Manager/Caretaker Ray Johnston, and previous Manager/Caretaker Billy Goodrum spoke at these programs: August 7; August 14 – “Introduction to Avatar Meher Baba”; August 21 – “Meher Baba’s 1956 Visit to Meher Mount; and August 28 – “Essence of Meher Mount Past and Present”.


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