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!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Desert Through a New Lens!

~ Ryan McHale, Head Curator 

As the temperatures begin to rise in the Valley, many places start to slow down, but here at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum we are still in full swing! 

We just finished installing a new temporary exhibit, Through the Lens: Desert in Modified Infrared. These unique photographs are captured by Luciano Demasi, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at San Diego State University. 

When not in the classroom, Demasi spends his time in the desert capturing its beauty both visible and invisible to the naked eye! 

What is Modified Infrared? 
The visible spectrum - what is visible to the human eye - is about 380 to 700 nanometers. But this is only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum! The infrared spectrum refers to 700 to 16000nm. 

Demasi first captures the photos with an infrared filter to “see” light beyond what is visible to the human eye. He then modifies the photos through Photoshop to enhance the images and add vibrant colors. 

His work produces a dreamlike or Dr. Seussesque landscape. When viewing the photos your imagination can run wild and your creativity is sparked! If you have spent any amount of time in and around Anza-Borrego Desert State Park or Joshua Tree National Park, you might actually recognize some of these seemingly other worldly landscapes! 

The exhibit will run for three months, so make sure you get a chance to see it! If you decide you must have these unique photos hanging on your walls, they are available for purchase! 

With highs possibly reaching above 115 degrees this week, come beat the heat at the Museum, and see the desert through a new perspective! 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sun, Fun, and Fireworks

~ Lesliee Parker, Education Coordinator

This past Thursday, July 4th the U.S. of A celebrated its 243rd birthday and here in Imperial Valley we went all out with Freedom Fest 2019 hosted at Imperial Valley College. Your Imperial Valley Desert Museum team and a handful of our most engaging volunteers set up and manned two booths in the children’s area at Freedom Fest. The day was spent interacting with kids and their families.

For one of our activities, we played a tool making game we use to teach youth about adaptation. The idea is simple, using a limited amount of crafting items, inspired by materials found in our desert, you create a tool that will stick to a foam target we’ve provided from a few feet away. Sound simple? Well, it’s a little harder than you’d expect; it's all about perseverance and adaptation. Some of the tools we saw were incredibly imaginative and the shouts of excitement whenever someone got their tool to stick on the target were enough to liven up anyone’s day.

Under our second canopy, staff and volunteers were having fun getting their hands dirty with clay. Children and adults enjoyed learning how coil clay pottery is traditionally made in our region. I heard a few exclaims of delight whenever someone's olla came out just the way they wanted. A few individuals also had fun making whistles and going about the area showing off their works of art to their friends. All in all, the day was unbelievably fun-filled and the heat was made bearable thanks to all the excitement, smiles, and laughter. As the evening's big event snuck up on us, portable lights were lit in our space to keep the fun going until the very last possible moment. Eventually, like all good things, the fun had to come to an end, but the amazing fireworks show brought everything together so well and gave an explosive ending to a fantastic day.

Fireworks show at Freedom Fest 2019