Thursday, December 12, 2019

Life Along the Border: A Local Perspective Reflects on a National Conversation

~ Kristin O'Lear, Curatorial Research Fellow


As temperatures in the desert begin to cool down, things are heating up at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum!

We just opened our new temporary exhibit Life Along The Border, featuring the photography of local artist and photojournalist, Jimmy Dorantes.  Growing up along the border in Calexico, CA, Mr. Dorantes captured the reality of what was going on, literally, in his own front yard. Mr. Dorantes' work has been featured across national news outlets such as the Associated Press and Time magazine, as well as partnered with major institutions such as the Smithsonian Institute. We are excited for our partnership with Mr. Dorantes and proud to showcase five decades of his work. 

Since my arrival in the desert two months ago,  Life Along The Border has been my labor of love. It's not very often during exhibit development one gets the opportunity to work with the artist whose photography is at the center of the exhibit, but that's exactly what I've been fortunate enough to experience. Mr. Dorantes worked closely during the exhibition's development, lending his expertise and perspective. Working with him has been a real highlight during my time at the Museum so far. Growing up primarily on the East Coast, discussion of the border/border wall has always been abstract and distant.  Conducting research for this exhibit, especially from a local perspective, has shown me just how complex the border, border wall, and the people living along it, actually is.
 
With this exhibit, IVDM is venturing into new territory. The exhibit will be open until March 1, 2020 and will then travel across the United States, becoming the first exhibit developed and curated by IVDM that will travel nationally and bring a local perspective to a national conversation. We at the Museum encourage you to take time to come and see the exhibit before its whisked away! 


Saturday, November 9, 2019

We Will Ocotillo Rock You!

~ Rebecca Santiago, Education Specialist

James Egger cutting a geode
Your Imperial Valley Desert Museum team rocked out at the 2019 Ocotillo Rocks! event providing educational geological speeches, hikes and games. Ocotillo Rocks! focuses on the importance of geology not only in the desert, but also the adjoining mountains of the desert and dunes on the eastern side of the Imperial Valley. We brought along our partners at the Imperial Valley Gem and Mineral Society to showcase the proper skills needed to be a successful gold miner, part a geode to reveal the hidden beauty within a plain rock, and spin a wheel of fortune for a chance at winning desert treasures, including geodes and rocks native to the desert.

Luis showing soapstone to a visitor
James Egger, Vice President of IV Gem and Mineral Society, shares his love and passion for desert rocks by cutting plain white and buffed rocks to expose the sparkling build up of crystals within, showcasing the hidden beauty that lies in our deserts. Along with Egger's passion for rocks, came the IV Gem and Mineral's society's passion for gold! Visitors were taught the proper methods to pan for gold guaranteed to find a nugget every time. After the thrill of finding gold or hidden beauty came an educational talk done by Education Specialist, Luis Landeros. His lecture was intriguing, interactive and inclusive of the visitors eager to know where their favorite rocks resided on the scale of rock labels. Last but not least, hiking the trails along the wash just behind the museum building, Cory Fitzsimmons and myself showed our visitors where to find milky quartz, petrified wood, sandstone and a few natural habitats of animals residing within the sands. We even had a young hiker find a beautiful piece of salt turned blue by the natural introduction of copper, leaving him excited to find more!

 Once hikers were done exploring the different mysteries of the desert, they were welcomed by the warmth of fresh lunch and cold beverages along with a fun activity for those who enjoy arts and crafts. The Petrified Wood painting booth was led by Education Coordinator Lesliee Parker
, where learning was made fun by letting the artistic juices flow. By painting a petrified piece of wood, visitors were not only learning about the process of minerals overtaking wood but also being able to create their own pieces of history. Ocotillo Rocks! is an event of its own that pushes the importance of education of not only the animals residing in the deserts of Ocotillo, but also the often overlooked and stepped on rocks that make up the majority of it. We thank everyone that came to enjoy this event with us as well as those who volunteered their time to be with us to make a spectacular event.




Sunday, October 13, 2019

East Coast, West Coast: A Curator on the Move!

Hello everyone!

My name is Kristin O'Lear and I am the new Curatorial Research Fellow with the Imperial Valley Desert Museum.  I am originally from Macomb, Michigan and received my bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in International Relations and German.  I am currently finishing my Master's degree in History, with a concentration in Public History, at East Carolina University in North Carolina.

Before working with IVDM, I served as Pre-Professional Intern at Mystic Seaport in Museum in Mystic, Connecticut.  I worked directly under the Director of Exhibits and as part of my work I developed audience evaluation tools in an effort to understand how visitors engage and perceive the exhibits they visit.  As a secondary role, I worked closely with Curatorial Affairs, contributing to the photography exhibit, When This You See, Remember Me.  As a graduate student at East Carolina University, I had the great privilege to assist in the research, design, and fabrication of an exhibit centered on a local World War II Naval Aviator at the May Museum in Farmville, North Carolina.

 
IVDM is unique from other museums and historical sites I've previously worked at.  I am impressed with the museum's mission to be more than just four walls and serve not as a space for interpretation, but rather as a platform highlighting local history and culture, particularly through its community outreach and educational programs. In my short time here in Imperial Valley, its clear that its history is rich and complex. I am excited to be new member of the team here at IVDM and be a small part of the museum's effort to promote and preserve the history of Imperial Valley!



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

New Beginnings

~ Ryan McHale, Head Curator

Hi Everyone,

My time here in the desert has come to a close, and I'm beginning my next adventure. I'm moving to Ketchikan, Alaska to be the Curator of Exhibits at the Tongass Historical Museum and the Totem Heritage Center! It is a bittersweet goodbye. 


I began last September as a Curatorial Fellow right out of graduate school, still wet behind the ears and ready for a challenge. As the Curatorial Fellow I was given the freedom to find what interests me and pursue it. 

I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to gain the practical experience I needed. IVDM understands that learning by doing teaches you something you can’t gain from a textbook. 


As Head Curator I was challenged with wearing many hats. In this role, I learned the importance of adaptability and the need for cooperation and collaboration between staff members and departments. 


IVDM has taught me that after housing and caring for collections and historical artifacts, museums should be cultural and community centers. They should be places where people can come together and socialize, explore ideas and cultures, and build stronger connections with each other and their local community. 


After my time at the IVDM, I want to focus my career on traditionally marginalized histories and bring underrepresented voices to the forefront of the museum experience. I hope to create informative and culturally relevant exhibits that inspire and connect us to our shared history.

This past year has been an invaluable experience and has prepared me for my next step. I am grateful for my time here at the Museum and for the friends I have made both on staff and within the community. Thank you IVDM for the opportunity to grow, and thank you Imperial Valley for welcoming me with open arms! I look forward to the new horizons that lie ahead and will always remember where I have been. 

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." - Seneca 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Meet the Team: A New Class of Educators

-Lesliee Parker, Education Coordinator

As we say goodbye to summer and parents, children, and teachers shift back into their school year routines, your IVDM education staff are preparing as well.  Over the past year we've had more change in our education department than in the last four years. So let's talk a little about our Education Coordinator and Education Specialists -- Lesliee, Luis, Cory, and Rebecca -- and introduce or re-introduce you all to the amazing members of our team this school year.

(Left to Right) Rebecca, Cory, and Lesliee reconstituting red clay.
If you've picked up a copy of the Spring 2019 edition of Imperial Valley Alive!, you've seen a picture of our curator, Ryan, showing a history student cassettes from the Morlin Childers collection.  This excited student is Rebecca Santiago, one of our newest additions
Rebecca and Lesliee reconstituting red clay.
 to the team.  Rebecca attends SDSU's Calexico campus and is currently working on a Bachelors in History.  With this degree, she hopes to pursue a career in teaching or further her education through Museum Studies, specifically focusing on either curation or education.  We're very excited to accompany her on her journey.  Rebecca identifies as an American-Mexican-Puerto Rican and has learned about many different cultures thanks to her father's military career.  She is most interested in seeing the different ways history affects young students and is excited to help them learn how history isn't just something that happened in the past, but something we're creating right now!

Cory at Ocotillo Water Day.

Cory Fitzsimmons recently graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Bachelors in Biochemistry and a minor in Mathematics Education.  He is interested in becoming a high school chemistry teacher here in the Imperial Valley.  One of Cory's goals is to help our community reconnect with nature, specifically nature right at our fingertips that we somehow overlook every day.  This is why he's excited to be part of the team.  Aside from his amazing professional goals, Cory has a few hobbies including playing the trumpet, tennis, and video games.  He also sketches, paints, dabbles in gardening and, as if that weren't enough, he's always willing to help out his friends with their own projects.  

Luis leading an educational hike.
Don't worry, it's not all new faces this school year.  Luis Landeros has been with us for a year now.  Happy Anniversary Luis!  Over the last year, Luis has been key in achieving inter-departmental goals; in addition to being the longest-serving employee on our current education team, he's a constant aid to every department in the museum.  He truly is a jack-of-all-trades!  Luis is currently attending Imperial valley College, majoring in Mechanical Engineering for Transfer.  His goal for this year is to make an impact with under-served youth through the museum's partnership with the Imperial Valley Probations Department.

Lesliee leading tie-dye booth at
Ocotillo Water Day.





Last but not least, Lesliee Parker is the IVDM Education Coordinator as of November 2018.  This year has brought a lot of opportunities to learn from, educate, and connect with our community.  Before officially joining the team, Lesliee has volunteered with the museum since 2015.  The museum staff really are like a part of the family at this point.  Lesliee strives to meet and surpass the mission and vision of the Imperial Valley Desert Museum every day.  Next time you're driving by Ocotillo, try to stop by and meet our education staff in person.  Every encounter is a learning opportunity!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Museum of Tolerance

~Marcie Landeros, Museum Manager

Kris Haugh in Anne Frank Exhibit
This week, myself, IVDM’s Education Coordinator Lesliee Parker, and US Navy Public Affairs Officer Kris Haugh, took a road trip to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, California, for some professional development. Kris is also the Communications Director for the Center for Genocide Research and Education, along with working on his PhD in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, so this was a fantastic opportunity to work with our community partners to expand our understanding of history, and explore how other museums create exhibits that focus of challenging history. 

Gas Chamber inside of Museum of Tolerance
The Museum Tolerance had 3 exhibits running, one focused on the Holocaust, one focused on Anne Frank specifically, and one that covers the bigger ideas of hate crimes, genocide, and violence, called The Hall of Tolerance. While all three were fantastic, the Holocaust exhibit was the most moving for me as a museum professional, and for my own personal experiences. Having family of both German and Jewish descent, I found myself deeply moved by the exhibit, particularly as I walked through a hallway marked for children, and walked into a gas chamber. 
Lesliee Parker in Anne Frank Exhibit 


The Anne Frank exhibit I found fascinating, because it a much lighter feel. When talking about her story, it is easy to imagine it as very dark, and terrifying, but after reading her words, and the words of those who truly knew her, I realized that telling her story in that way doesn’t begin to do her justice. She kept a positive outlook, even when things were terrifying for her, and the lighter air of the exhibit reflected that. It was an amazing trip, and I look forward to returning in the future. 







Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Nativa! An IVDM roadtrip to celebrate living cultures

~ David Breeckner, Executive Director 

Some days you just have to get out of the office!  At Imperial Valley Desert Museum, we strive to be more than just a building with four walls.  Sometimes, that means a road trip to work with others on their own turf.  On Sunday, August 4, IVDM staff made the three hour drive south of the border to the coastal town of Ensenada for its 15th annual Nativa! festival.


Bringing together indigenous artists from across Baja, the weekend-long festival featured traditional crafts, foods, songs, and dances of the Kumiai, Pai Pai, Kiliwa, and Cucapa [sic].  Its purpose?  To spread, strengthen, and celebrate their ancestral traditions of crafts!  Over 60 stalls and vendors were present across the day with everything from pottery to reed, pine, palm, and willow basketry, hunting tools, stone and metal sculptures, traditional herbs and medicines, and loads of food and drink.

 
IVDM staff had a blast exploring around the festival, meeting the artists and learning more about their process and the crafting itself.  Sampling not only traditional dishes like shawii (a ground acorn paste that's a high-protein superfood), staff also got to experience the continued evolution and growth of these traditions with more modern staples.  From homemade wine to the bitter grounds of Ajak Kuneey A'aal (a new, acorn-based coffee), all sampled while watching a large group sing their traditional bird songs, the flavors and offerings were as rich as the day itself.  


The festival was an incredible and busy day with plenty to see, do, and experience.  It truly was something amazing to see so many come together to celebrate the rich history and culture of the region's indigenous peoples, and to explore the new ways in which that culture continues to grow and thrive today.  As both a tribute of their past and a celebration of the tribes' present and future, I'm thrilled that IVDM was fortunate enough to attend!