Thursday, October 16, 2014

So long- and thanks for all the fish!

-by the Interim Head Curator

(My apologies to Douglas Adams, but how often does a museum get to use a play on words like that?)

Staff member Jessica Brody says goodbye to the Salmon

With this weekend's Shawii Day we said goodbye to our latest traveling exhibit: Exhibit Envoy's Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast. This eight week exhibit explored foods native to California and how they were traditionally prepared by Native Californians.  Using artifacts from our collections that related to food and hunting we were able to supplement the statewide exhibit with information specific to the Kumeyaay Nation.

Young visitors enjoy baskets on loan from Manzanita
Between August 16 and October 12, 562 visitors came through the museum for the exhibit.  That's about 14 people each day we were open for eight weeks!  Visitors came from El Centro, Brawley, and San Diego; Freedom Academy came out from Holtville for a field trip;  and the San Diego Association of Geologists hiked out for their annual field trip.

A young expert teaches our Jessica Brody to crack acorns

We were thrilled by the positive response everyone had to this exhibit.  People loved learning new things about foods they thought they knew, and how complicated it was to prepare foods when today we have a microwave handy!

Staff member Albert Lutz takes down the exhibit

We have now begun the process of not only taking down Salmon to go onto its next home, but everything else in the museum's public area.  As you know, we will be closed for a few months of construction and when we open back up in the Spring we will have an exciting new permanent exhibit! You've supported us through the long beginning- now prepare to be amazed!

Don't worry- we'll be keeping everyone up to date on construction through the blog and Facebook- follow along in this stage of our adventure!
Up next: Mocking up our new visible storage exhibit!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

San Diego Association of Geologists

The San Diego Association of Geologists organize an annual field trip. 

This year the field trip explored the interaction of the major faults of Southern California. Touring by bus, they stopped to explore the physical location of fault lines and examine the resulting geology formations. They took a break at the museum for lunch, catered by the  Jacumba Spa, and listened to Professor Norrie Robbins, adjunct professor at San Diego State University, give a talk on the complex relationship between native cultures and geological fault lines. You can find out more about the SDAG and their field trips on their website:

Shawii Day Extravaganza

-from the Interim Head Curator

Today was our big Shawii Day Event to mark the close of the traveling exhibit Seaweed, Salmon, & Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast.  Over 100 people joined us for this fun-filled afternoon.

Visitors enjoyed a screening of the new Viejas Production video on making shawii, then got to try it themselves. Johnny Eagle Spirit Elliot and members of the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation provided a hands-on demonstration for everyone who wanted to try the process of turning acorns into shawii- a staple in traditional Kumeyaay diet.

Learning to crack acorns and grind them into flour on grinding stones was a lot of fun - and some of our younger visitors got so good they were cracking acorns with one blow by the end of the day! These pros are clearly future chefs!

Manzanita tribal members demonstrated the process of making shawii.

The day's activities also included shaahuk - a traditional Kumeyaay game taught to us by Stan Rodriguez of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, our coiled clay program outside in absolutely beautiful weather and a silent auction that brought almost $700 to the Museum's Endowment Fund. This was our first silent auction and items were generously donated by John Elliot, Rick Hamilton, Lee Buckingham, and Lisa Gallinat.  We hope to make this a regular part of our Annual Society meeting something to look forward to next year!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fabian's Visit

Lennie Fabian stopped in today to see the ceramic vessel that bears his name. The Fabian Olla, as it is now known, was the first cached vessel excavated by Imperial County archaeologists back in 1977, and will be featured in the new permanent exhibit.

Finding the vessel and informing the local authorities, allowing them to properly document the location and condition of the artifact, sent Fabian's life careening into a direction he never imagined. He now lives in Guatemala with his wife, whom he met as a direct result of his local notoriety.  It was wonderful to see these two old friends re-unite and to show Mr. Fabian the designs for the new display, currently under fabrication by the Museum's design team at WE Exhibits.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Plants & People: an Evening with an Expert- Stan Rodriguez

-from the Interim Head Curator

Stan Rodriguez talks about native plants
This Saturday our members had the exciting opportunity to enjoy an evening with Stan Rodriguez and learn more about the plants native to our region and how they are traditionally used by the Kumeyaay.  Stan is a teacher at the Kumeyaay Community College on the Sycuan reservation, and a member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.  Stan is known for his engaging story-telling and wide knowledge on a vast number of subjects.

For this evening, Stan spoke with 23 members about different plants that they often see when out hiking, and how they are traditionally used.  "The desert may look barren, but there is so much here when you look." he said.  "We call it the Kumeyaay grocery store."

Stan Rodriguez
He described gathering and roasting agave, which tastes "like a cross between a pineapple and a yam" and is used for fiber as well as food.   Desert cactus, like the "confounding" cholla, can be roasted easily- "but take the stickers off first!" Stan also banished the myth of the cactus as a source of water in the desert, explaining that while the plant might be edible the water found in the barrel cactus is extremely high in alkaline and toxic to drink.

The evening was capped off with a traditional Kumeyaay stick game, which will be set up for children (and adults!) to play at the museum's Shawii Day on Saturday October 11 from 2-5pm.  There was fierce competition among the adults, and we enjoyed it so much we feel sure everyone who comes on Saturday will too!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Latino Health Awareness Month

This Friday we participated in Latino Health Awareness Month Community Resource Fair. Sponsored by the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch and the Imperial Valley Food Bank, the theme was "healthy living". Participants accrued raffle tickets as they walked the mall and spoke to organizations like the Museum, Starts with Arts, IID, the Public Health Office, Border Patrol, and several others.

The Museum dispersed hiking info from the groups we work with and I shared some of my own hiking photos. We also made a small presentation announcing the new exhibit opening in Spring 2015.

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!