The life and legacy of Ventura County Supervisor and longtime Oxnard Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez will live on forever at the Museum of Ventura County despite her tragic and unexpected death last year.
Research Library and Archives Director Deya Terrafranca said she saw the outpouring of sentiment after Ramirez was struck by a pickup truck while walking to a concert in Downtown Oxnard on Aug 12. Terrafranca knew right away that items like photographs of a vigil, documents related to issues Ramirez worked on, as well as personal memorabilia should be preserved for the sake of history.
“One of the things that we do is something called rapid-response collecting. And so pretty immediately, I realized that this is something that we could do for the community and could do for future historians and researchers,” she explained.
The museum website homepage now includes a link for people to submit contributions. Only images, electronic documents, videos and audio files are being accepted into the digital archive since the museum is already short on space to store physical items.
The first contributions to the Carmen Ramirez Remembrance Collection include an article about her passing from the Santa Paula Times newspaper and a PowerPoint presentation about her legacy from a charity, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy or CAUSE, with which she was involved. Other materials include a letter from a friend describing trips they took together over the course of several decades to locations including Bulgaria, Turkey and Nicaragua, and a picture of a handmade snowy plover toy, an endangered shorebird Ramirez worked to protect.
Terrafranca said it’s important to strike while the iron is hot when it comes to rapid response collecting.
“People’s memories and recollections fade through time and Carmen was an incredibly important figure in the local community. She was not only a woman leader, but a Latina leader, and I think that it’s especially important, you know, looking at our archives now, they’ve been collected, mostly from the Anglo community,” said Terrafranca. “And I see it as my job to make sure that we, while we are completely out of physical room to take in new materials, we have to collect the stories from all of the communities in Ventura County. That’s something that hasn’t been done in the past and so it’s of tantamount importance.”
While newspaper articles and official documents related to Ramirez’s time in office are important for historians to consider, Terrafranca said the museum is just as interested in collecting photos, videos and stories that reflect what kind of a person the late supervisor was.
“People had very personal relationships with her, you know. Even if they weren’t great friends with her, they felt as though they had a very personal relationship with her and she was very inspiring. And people had a lot of memories and thoughts and experiences related to her. And so what we are trying to collect is the more personal side of the official record of who Carmen was to the community,” the museum archivist said.
Ramirez was elected to the board of supervisors in 2020 and was the first Latina member. She was less than half way through her first term and was serving as board chairperson when she died at age 73.
For more information on the Museum of Ventura County’s Carmen Ramirez Remembrance Collection, visit venturamuseum.org/carmen-ramirez-remembrance-collection.