Sunday, November 22, 2015

Society Annual Meeting

-from the Curator

Members meet for Annual Society Meeting, begin planning Museum's future
Yesterday 25 members of the Museum's Society attended the IVDM Society's Annual Meeting.  It was a busy day and great to see so many museum friends gathered together. The Society recognized four of its members with special certificates this year: William Pape was recognized for his exemplary support of the museum, its mission, and the Endowment Fund; George and Kathleen Willis were recognized for their exemplary support of the museum, its mission, and the Endowment Fund; and Neil Zinn, retiring from the Society's Board, was recognized for his years of service, support, and volunteering.
Robin Dodge, IVDMS Secretary, presents William Pape a certificate of recognition for Exemplary Support of the Museum

After a brief business meeting the Museum's Director, Dr. Neal Hitch, took us back in time through a retrospective of how far the museum has come: from the beginning of building the Ocotillo museum to today when we have a brand-new, state of the art exhibit- the biggest goal of the Society since he was hired back in 2011.
Chuck Fisher, IVDMS President, accepts certificates of recognition on behalf of Neil Zinn and Kathleen & George Willis, who were unable to attend the meeting

Tables were set out to begin brainstorming goals and directions for the museum's future
All of this leads to the question of where the museum goes from here. What do its members want to see happen over the next 5, 10, 50 years? This meeting began the strategic planning that will occur over the next 6-8 months to answer those questions. It started with three tables set out at this meeting, each with one question on it. Everyone was encouraged to write their thoughts down.

 If you come through the museum over the next few weeks the tables will be up and we'd love to have your additions to this first brainstorming session. Or post a comment through this blog or Facebook and we'll add it to the table!

 Here's where the tables stand so far:

Question 1: If we focused on one program, what would it be?
-"Field trips for schools"
-"Field trips for students"

Question 2: Potential uses of new property?
-"Hiking trails with info signs"
-"Hiking with no signs (wilderness experience)"
-"Truck/Jeep display"
-"Show case drought tolerant/native plants for landscaping to transition to more sustainable, less water usage while simultaneously propagating and selling plants to visitors"

Question 3: What is the most important thing the museum will do . . . 
 . . . In the next year?
-"Get money for gardens"
-"6th grade hiking field trip"
-"Skype with a scientist"
-"Youth hike (conjunction with Jacumba hikers?)"
-"Connect/stay connected to local Kumeyaay tribes/leaders/entities, host Kumeyaay related events"
-"Become institutionalized with the Imperial Valley and Jacumba schools so that all students get a chance to come out"

 . . . In the next 5 years?
-"Plant gardens"
-"Internships with local colleges"
-"A desert oasis- palms, pools, plants, shade"
-"Southern CA colleges need to hear about IVDM for field trips/seminars/workshops"
-"Partner with San Diego universities to bring grad students out"
-"Bring more closely together Native American, Hispanic, and European cultures through the museum experience"

 . . . In the next 50 years?
-"Maintain gardens"

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Night of Sheep

-from the Curator

Author Mark C. Jorgensen
Last night we held a Members-Only FriendRaiser where 21 guests listened to the incredible Mark Jorgensen talk about the Desert Bighorn Sheep.  During his 36-year career with the California State Parks he has been a state park ranger, a resource ecologist, and superindent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  He is currently a member of the Desert Bighorn Council, and author of Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon, published by Sunbelt Publications.

This fascinating and informative talk discussed the Desert Bighorn Sheep: their lives, their challenges, and what we can do to help them. Mark also answered questions and signed copies of his book after his presentation.

Friend Raisers are Members-only events designed to be small, intimate events, talks, or behind-the-scenes looks into the Museum.  All proceeds from these events go to the IVDM's Endowment Fund, which is currently being matched 3:1 by an National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge grant.

Members: are you receiving emails from us? If you aren't seeing our emails in your inbox or spam box, let us know! We've had several email addresses bounce back lately and want to make sure your address is correct!

Interested in becoming a Member? Check out our website to find out more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Review: Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon

-from the Curator

Welcome to what will (hopefully) become a regular part of our blogging- book reviews! Our staff hopes to mix in reviews of books focusing on local interest topics with our blogs on events, exhibits, and other cool stuff happening out at the Desert Museum.

Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon
Mark C. Jorgensen, photographs by Jeff Young.

This new book offers a glimpse into the lives of the elusive desert bighorn sheep: their habits, their social lives, and their natural habitats.  It is written for the general reader in a casual and engaging writing style that contains enormous amounts of fascinating information without feeling like a science lecture. I was particularly interested in the inclusions at the end of the book, where Jorgensen discusses sheep conservation and the current status of the sheep in the U.S. and Mexico in regions they traditionally call home.  This included not only their current numbers, but conservation efforts, hunting restrictions, challenges they face- such as the inclusion of non-native plant species in their habitat, and successes like Arizona's highway overpasses, allowing sheep to successfully travel from one location to another without crossing highways. Mark Jorgensen, who has served as a state park ranger, resource ecologist, and superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in his 36-year career in California State Parks and has spent 5 decades studying desert bighorn sheep, is clearly dedicated to sharing his love for and understanding of these amazing animals.

The truly unique aspect of this book, however, are the incredible photographs taken by Jeff Young. Young has been an avid photographer for over 40 years and since 2008 has focused on desert bighorn sheep.  There are over 200 photographs in the book, including rarely photographed behaviors such as the "taunting" and posturing of sheep before they battle.  The photographs make you feel as if you are right there, hearing the clash of horns, or the scrape of rocks as a sheep makes a seemingly impossible headlong dive down a cliff.  Some images, like one looking down at a ram balancing all four hooves on a small rocky peak, make you wonder not only how the sheep can do that- but how Jeff was able to take such an incredible shot! Action shots of jumping sheep show more clearly than words their amazing dexterity in seemingly impossible rocky landscapes. I was especially struck by images of the sheep in the red sandstone region of Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, where the red backgrounds seems to glow, highlighting the sheep instead of allowing them to blend in as they do in our local Sonoran Desert. And I defy anyone not to grin at images of newborn lambs exploring their new world.    

Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon is the perfect book for nature lovers and photography lovers of all ages, and a must-have for those living in the regions the sheep continue to call home.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Horseless Carriages in Ocotillo

-from the Curator
Regional groups of the HCCA stopped by for a visit

Today the Museum had a special group of visitors: the La Jolla/Southern California Regional groups of the Horseless Carriage Club of America. Out for a weekend tour of El Centro and the vicinity, 34 car enthusiasts driving cars from 1915 (or earlier!) stopped by for a tour of the museum. They picked the perfect weekend for driving - beautiful weather and little to no wind- and everyone enjoyed the Museum as a stopping point before they continue on their tour.

We hope you get the chance to see some of these amazing cars as they drive in our area for the weekend!
All cars from 1915 or earlier

Off for the next adventure!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

OctoberCraft Fun

-from the Curator

73 people came out yesterday to join us for our first OctoberCraft event. It was a day for fun and families, crafts and treats. Four different craft stations were set up through the Museum, giving people a chance to explore the new exhibits in between their crafts.
Sue Hess, Marilyn McAllister, Steve Benton, Marcie Rodriguez, Alanna Rodriguez, Michael Field & Stephanie Bedwell volunteered for treats and crafts all day. Thanks guys!
The day went smoothly thanks to some dedicated and creative volunteers: Sue Hess, Marilyn McAllister, Steve Benton, Robin Dodge, Antonio Rivera, Bob Diaz, Michael Field and Stephanie Bedwell spent a fun filled day helping kids with new craft projects.

Bob Diaz with Dia de los Muertos crafts
Bob Diaz, from Sears in El Centro, came out for another year of sharing Dia de los Muertos arts and stories with kids.

Michael teaches a new generation the art of sewing
Michael Field and his wife Stephanie joined us from San Diego. Michael's photography exhibit Michael Field: Designer, Hiker, Photographer just opened at the Museum and includes a look at the hiking bags he designs and makes.

 He and Stephanie helped kids cut and color skull designs (in honor of Dia de los Muertos) and helped them sew their own bags on a sewing machine.  Several kids came back to work on more than one- a new generation of designers in the works!
Photobomb! The photographer gets photographed while a new student shows off her work

Making their own bags got kids excited to go trick-or-treating later!

Coiled Clay and Spooky Lanterns were also big hits. These crafty kids came with creativity to make some great projects!

#Ramseselfie with some raffle winners!

 OctoberCraft was sponsored by Sears and Antonio Rivera, Realtor.  Antonio raffled off $150 in gift certificates to the IVDM gift shop every hour and to lots of excited winners!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

PHOTOLAB Opening Reception

-from the Curator
Michael Field: Designer, Hiker, Photographer
Director Neal Hitch & Michael Field
Michael Field, exhibit designer with the San Diego Natural History Museum who recently opened the Coast to Cactus exhibit at the NAT, is also a lifelong devotee of hiking, camping, and photography.   A good friend to the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, Field has allowed many of his photographs to be used in our Land of Extremes permanent exhibit.

Opening Reception Night
Opening Reception Night

San Diego Jazz Band

The past several weeks have been busy ones as we build our first seasonal temporary exhibit in conjunction with San Diego's first celebration of photography, PHOTOLAB.  But last night was a night of celebration as we held the opening reception for our new exhibit, PHOTOLAB: Michael Field: Designer, Hiker, Photographer.  People from San Diego and Imperial Counties came out to see the new exhibit, enjoy a small jazz trio providing lovely background music, and eat gourmet s'mores.

"The idea of this exhibit" says IVDM director Neal Hitch, "is to put you in the mindset that you are out in the desert. You are seeing places to explore, you are touching hiking bags, imagining you're camping in a tent.  The entire room has been transformed to give that impression."

Albert Lutz: IVDM S'mores Chef

Gourmet S'mores made it feel like a night for camping!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Michael Field: Through the lens of a designer

-from the Curator

In preparation for the IVDM's newest exhibit PHOTOLAB: Michael Field: Designer, Hiker, Photographer, Michael agreed to sit down for an interview with us. You read some of it in our latest Land of Extremes article in the Imperial Valley Press. Here's the complete interview!

IVDM: When did you first start being interested in photography? What sparked your interest?
MF: My father always took photos on our adventures so I grew up with that being a part of the outdoor experience.  I bought a film camera at a thrift store that used 120 film when I was about 20 years old and started experimenting with night photography and natural landscapes with human elements in them.  I was fascinated with the design and mechanics of old cameras and I ended up with a collection of over 100 cameras.  I have a photo published in a hardcover book taken with a thrift store camera.  That's one of the myths about photography: that you have to have a super fancy camera and a shoulder bag full of gear to take good pictures.  That's not true- the world's greatest camera is actually whatever camera you have with you- for most people it's also their phone!

IVDM: Did you take classes in photography or was it all experimentation on your own?
MF: Yes and yes.  One of my college art professors taught me how to paint in a photo-realistic style by painting from photos with tiny brushes.  That got me thinking about photography as an art form (it's a lot faster!). I started treating my photographs more like paintings and paid more attention to composition and the lighting.  I did study photography with Professor Walter Cotten at San Diego State University.  I learned a lot from him and by working with the other students.  We'd all go to the same desert locations and shoot the same shots.  That helped me develop my own style.  I donated most of my film camera collection to the black and white photography program at SDSU for students to experiment with.

IVDM: How long have you been hiking and photographing San Diego County and Imperial County? What drew you to this area?
MF: My family moved to San Diego from Canada in the winter of 1964 and we stayed in one of the cottages on Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach.  We were in heaven.  One of our first weekend trips was a hike up Palm Canyon and we've been in love with the desert ever since.  The Boy Scout troop I belonged to was very active and we went backpacking once a month. I've been continuing the "one overnight adventure per month" policy ever since. A lot of the Scout leaders designed and sewed their own backpacking gear at that time. That's a big part of my inspiration to design and sew my own camping gear.

IVDM: Do you have certain images in mind when you go out to shoot or do you wait for inspiration of what you see at the time?
MF: I always start out being very systematic in my explorations and in my intent to get specific images.  I examine topographic maps and Google Earth to try and understand topographic features- like following the shoreline of ancient Lake Cahuilla.  I always leave the house with a specific destination and time of where I'm going to be when the light is going to be good.  To be perfectly honest though, many of my better shots are opportunistic.  Being at the right place at the right time can happen on short notice.  I'm constantly scanning my surroundings and moving around when I'm out with my camera.  I keep both eyes open when I'm looking at the viewfinder. THe best shot is frequently behind you.

IVDM: You take absolutely stunning landscape photographs.  But many of your images purposely include signs of humanity- a chair, train cars, trash, etc. Why? What draws you to certain "human reminders" as well as the landscapes?
MF: Thank you. Southern California is a beautiful place to live and we are all very lucky people to be here.  I'm fascinated with the intersection of art, natural sciences, and history.  That's the sweet spot- when you can make connections to the past, present, and future.  I want my photos to look like Albert Bierstadt landscape paintings of early California- only I might have a dead tree or rotten chair as the center of interest telling the story of a failed development.
Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park c. 1868. Albert Bierstadt.
BBC News used one of my photos to illustrate an article titled "the World's Deserts Need Better Management". I'm also fascinated with cycles of abundance and scarcity that have repeated throughout time- both historic and geologic time.  You can see the evidence of these cycles in our desert today.   When ancient Lake Cahuilla was full to the brin it was a time of abundance for the people that lived here.  Can you imagine how beautiful it must have been to live on the beach of the biggest lake in California? I try and imagine the lake being full when I'm out taking photos of the ancient shoreline.  After the lake evaporated it would be a tough place to live off the land.  Today we live in a cycle of artificial abundance because we have the ability to import water from hundreds of miles away.  That's rapidly changing now and I'll take photos to record things as they unfold.

IVDM: Does your eye for photography help you in designing exhibits at the NAT (San Diego Natural History Museum)? Or does your work as a designer influence the photographs you take?
MF: Yes and yes! Focusing in on specific content and the presentation of that content is the key to successful exhibits and photographs. A huge portion of our effort to create engaging exhibits at the NAT goes into editing. We spend weeks or even months looking at everything that will not be included in the exhibition.  Same thing with photography- I'll spend most of my time looking at what I'm not going to photograph.  Visitors have to be able to see things very clearly and that means getting rid of distractions and being able to get close enough to see the detail.  This is actually great for photographers who wan to improve their photography- get closer to your subject.  Dramatic lighting is also critical for both exhibits and photography.  Inside the museum we can completely control the light to highlight specific objects, textures, saturate colors or even hide things that we don't want people to notice. Outdoors with a camera it's a little harder, but you can still achieve those same results by waiting for the sun to get lower, clouds to come over or by walking around to change our vantage point.  Capturing dramatic lighting in a photo also means you need to out-smart your camera.  You need to darken your camera's exposure setting a smidgen to achieve rich saturated colors and capture that magic ray of light.  It's easy to do and just about all cameras have a way to darken your images- even most camera phones.  Try it on your next sunset photo!