Friday, September 19, 2014

Fun with Ceramics: an Evening with an Expert- Dr. Suzanne Griset

-from the Interim Head Curator

Dr. Suzanne Griset explores the Museum ceramics collection with members
On Saturday we had the pleasure of having Dr. Suzanne Griset join us for a day of fun with ceramics.  Suzanne, the principle investigator and project manager with SWCA, is an expert on the ceramics of Southern California.  She was kind enough to work with us during the day, answering questions we had about clay in general and pieces of our collection in particular.   She also joined us for a Members-only Evening with an Expert and gave a presentation to 23 Museum members who wanted to learn more about our collection.

As we work to prepare our collection of ollas for display in the new permanent exhibit (opening Spring 2015) her insight was incredibly helpful.

We learned some fascinating ceramic facts from Dr. Griset:

This jar bottom became a bowl after breaking
  • Pottery probably came to the San Diego area by about 900 CE (Common Era), and made it to the Imperial Valley by 1000  
  • Handles are not seen on vessels in Southern California before Spanish Contact in 1540
  • Cracks in vessels can be repaired by drilling small holes on either side of the crack and lacing together with yucca fiber or sinew
  • Water jars have a life span of about 2 years where they will keep water cool.  After 2 years salts penetrate the clay and it no longer cools water.  They can be reused as something else, like cooking pots 
  • Stucco on pots lowers the thermal fracturing of clay- which makes it ideal for cooking pots that are in and out of the fire frequently!
  • After 1880 the railroad brought new people to the Southwest.  Tribes began selling pottery to the tourists and copying styles that sold well.  The forms and designs of the Maricopa peoples became particularly popular

Maricopa style ceramic frog

Want to learn more about ceramics?  Look for our Land of Extremes article in tomorrow's Imperial Valley Press!

Dr. Suzanne Griset with a few of the pots you'll see in our permanent exhibit-Spring 2015!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September Society Notes- out now!

Daughter of the Desert- Ingrid Vigeant

-from the Interim Head Curator

It's hard to believe another month has gone by.  We are now half way through our eight week traveling exhibit Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast.  We've held a few events - many members only, and have a few more to go in connection with this great exhibit.

If you haven't been out yet, think of bringing the family.  We are offering coiled clay programs on Saturdays as well as other kid's activities to make your weekend fun.  Or come during the week and enjoy a quieter atmosphere as you explore the foods of California and how they have traditionally been prepared.

Keeping you up to date on things- here's our next newsletter!
Society Notes: September 2014 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bob Price

I was devastated to hear today that Bob Price past away early this morning. Bob and Myra were regular volunteers at the Museum. Bob diligently curated in the lab and has credit for thousands of re-curated artifacts and hundreds of hours keeping me company in the lab while Myra manned the front desk. I never saw Myra without Bob or Bob without Myra, and Bob always got in trouble if he stopped for lunch without telling Myra he was taking a break. I know his absence is felt heavy in Jacumba, as it is here. The lab feels very empty today.

Services will be held in Alpine on Sept 20th, with a memorial service being scheduled in Jacumba later this month. The Museum can be contacted for further details.

Bob always refused to be photographed,
but when have I ever listened? I managed
to snap this one photo toward the end of the
curation process - you can see him in the
background, full center, and focused on the task at hand.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Exhibit Opening Weekend

from the Interim Head Curator

This weekend marked the opening of our new traveling exhibit Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast.  Opening weekend was sponsored by Imperial Valley Aggregates and Gibson & Schaeffer Inc. - and therefore free to the public. We were thrilled that over 100 people joined us over the three day festivities to celebrate our      
largest traveling exhibit yet.

Family sees what could be found in Lake Cahuilla
Friends, family, Museum members, and first time visitors all came out to experience this new exhibit.  They enjoyed two different videos running in different locations- one that came with the exhibit on making acorn bread and the award winning First People Kumeyaay. They learned new and exciting things about grinding the all important acorn for food and roasting agave in pits.  And everyone loved the take away recipes!  Hopefully we'll hear back from people after they've made the meals to tell us how they liked it!

Kids enjoyed a new twist on our signature coiled clay program by also learning a bit about finding clay in its natural state and how the Kumeyaay ground it to create the pliable clay needed for ceramics.  There are also grinding stones in the exhibit from our education collection that can be touched and a game where kids try to think of everything they would need to make their own dinner.
Learning to grind clay

What are YOU making for dinner?

Tools for hunting on view
 With the exception of historical photographs of food preparation and hunting, jars of food provided by Exhibit Envoy, and a basket collection on loan to the museum from Johnny Eagle Spirit Elliot of Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, all artifacts on display came from the museum's collections- many never before on view to the public.  All the artifacts relate to food: hunting it, cooking it, eating it.  While learning about the importance of fishing for food our visitors can also see a map of Lake Cahuilla and learn a little more about that fascinating part of our desert landscape.  Shells from both the ocean and Lake Cahuilla are on display, as are a collection of projectile points found along the lake's shorelines.  In an area on hunting visitors can not only see knives, arrows shaft straighteners, and throwing sticks- they can also see a preview of the upcoming permanent exhibit.  A collection of projectile points takes the visitor through a journey of changing technology, changing climate, and changing game.  From mammoths to rabbits, we have taken lot of visitor feedback into consideration when designing this case.

Baskets on loan for this exhibit only

Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast will be at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum until Saturday, October 11.  If you and your family weren't able to come for the opening weekend fun, we hope you have the chance to stop by and see this once in a lifetime exhibit before it leaves the valley!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Salmon have arrived!

-by the Interim Head Curator

Today the new travelling exhibit Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast arrived and we are very excited.  The staff will spend the next two weeks setting up and adding to this exhibit with artifacts from the Museum's collections to help tell these new stories.

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is partnering with the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in hosting the largest travelling exhibit the Museum has had to date.  The statewide exhibit from the Grace Hudson Museum and Exhibit Envoy (creators of the Gold Fever! exhibit the Museum hosted last year) features foods important in the lives of Native Californians including fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, and acorns.

Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast will be open from Saturday, August 16-Saturday, October 11.  Admission to the museum during this time will be free for Museum Members, $5 for non-Members.  Events held in conjunction with this exhibit will begin with an exhibit opening celebration on Saturday, August 16 from 2-5pm, free to the public thanks to our sponsors Imperial Valley Aggregates and Gibson & Schaefer Inc.
For more information, please go to our website or send us an email at

Curation staff opening exhibit boxes for the first time

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Society Notes- an occasional newsletter

-from the Interim Head Curator

Between one thing and the other we've gotten pretty behind in publishing our newsletters.  But never fear, a newsletter is here!  Containing the first of many information updates about our upcoming travelling exhibit Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Feast, I hope you enjoy!

Please note- some of the events on this list are not only RSVP but are Member only events.  If you've been debating becoming a member and see something on this list that interests you now may be the time to join!

Society Notes: August 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Water Cache Olla

From the Director...

I hope you saw the article in the IV Press today...

As we are preparing artifacts and prototyping cases for the new permanent exhibit new things are gradually coming into the museum.

Last week we moved the water cache olla into the museum. In the records of the IVC Museum, this olla was referred to as the "Fabian" olla. I was not sure why, but in the last few weeks the story has come together.

In February 1977, Leonard Fabian, of the Imperial County Planning Department, found an olla in the side of a wash that was severally eroding after Hurricane Kathleen. Fabian notified the IVC Museum and the BLM, and the olla was excavated and fully documented. According to an article published in the museum's newsletter, this was the first archaeologically documented water cache in Imperial County.

The story of the "Fabian" olla is a success story to the BLM, and Fabian was considered somewhat of a local hero. More often, when someone came across an olla in the Imperial Valley in the 1970s they just took it and put into a private collection. This water cache olla was brought to the college museum so that it would benefit the public and have a greater educational purpose. The olla and its accompanying ceramic cap are now back together and on display for the first time since at least 1999. They will be one of the central displays in the new exhibit. We will be prototyping two different ways of telling the story of this olla over the next few weeks. If you come by the museum, please take a minute to provide comments your comments.