Friday, December 30, 2011

Lab Cabinets Installed

We had a lot of help this week and made good progress hanging the cabinets and metal pegboard for the new conservation lab. The metal pegboard was a last minute purchase at the Borders Bookstore closeout sale. It was originally a freestading shelf system. But we thought that it could be repurposed to hold conservation tools and supplies.

Everything is laid out and mounted. Now we need to order custom countertops. But we need to hurry, yesterday we heard back from a collegue and we will have conservation staff arriving at the museum on January 17!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lab Cabinet Delivery

The Kraftmaid cabinets were delivered today. The Conservation Lab is finally becoming a reality. There is still a lot of work to be done. The cabinets will need to be hung. Countertops will have to be made. This week we will try and lay out the cabinets and verify their placement. But the cabinets are here, just in time for Christmas.

 Did I say that there was still a lot of work to be done?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Next up: Developing the Photograph Archives

Harry Casey Collection,
Imperial Valley Desert Museum Photograph Archives
These last few weeks of the year will be spent finishing a project to secure our photograph archives. This summer an intern curated many of the photographs in the collection, including 200 photographs and 1,600 35MM slides. These images include a few aerial photographs, some notable landmarks, archeological sites, and several photographs which appear to have been put together as part of lectures at the college. Few of the images are significant additions to the collection, but some, the one shown here taken by Harry Casey, are amazing photographs that are very important historical documents in themselves.

Images are delicate artifacts and it is best to relocate them when the outside temperature is cool in the desert. Otherwise, drastic temperature changes can reek havoc with the ink and paper materials that make up the photographs or slides. This is especially true in the case of our collection of historic glass slides. Now that the winter weather is upon us, it is the best time to move the rest of the photo collections into the new building.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grant Seminar, Final Report

by Jessica A. Brody

The grant seminar is in it's last days and we can now report that we achieved and exceeded our goal of preparing 9 grants. We prepared 11 grants in total and so far submitted 6. The remainder are waiting for just a few more materials to be collected, or can't be officially submitted until the new year. We had 30 participants in the seminar, several of who assisted with preparing the grant text. These folks compled approximately 25 hours of work outside the seminar.  Staff spent 178 hours outside the seminar contacting prospective project partners, arranging letters of commitment and support, editing and writing grant text and preparing the budgets and work plans. Great job everyone!

These grants lay out our plans for the museum facility and programming, and they are REALLY GOOD ideas. It's been a pleasure working with everyone here at the museum and I look forward to coming back next year to assist with the plans we've developed over the last 6 weeks. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Volunteer Days

by Jessica A. Brody
BLM intern Natalie shows off some intricately made arrow heads
The Museum hosted 2 volunteer days to re-label the collections the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) interns have finished after four months of re-curating. It's the stuff of volunteer dreams: the true behind scenes of archeology... read the label number in the artifact bag, find the new printed label, replace the old label with the new archival quality one, pick up a new artifact, repeat. Yes, after 3 hours we were all practically walking on a cloud.
I jest, but really, the work we completed was incredibly important to the museum collections and really a lot of fun. Any history lover will see through these mundane tasks and recognize the volunteer days for their true value: as a rare opportunity to have the museum's treasures explained by passionate experts. Whenever someone found an interesting looking artifact, we'd all stop and speculate and oo and ahh over its possible purpose.
One artifact in particular caught my fancy:
When this projectile point was first pointed out as a 'neat' find, I sat looking at the size, going through my mental encyclopedia of desert animals, wondering what kind of a huge arrow shaft would have to be attached to support this big arrow! What kind of animal would be big enough to merit such a hefty tool? Coyote, maybe? Finally, coming up short, I jokingly said, "What's so big out here? Saber tooth tiger?" And with a dead straight face the staff responded, "Mastodon, properly."
Oh. Well, ok then.
When I informed the BLM archeology staff I was going to proclaim that this atlatl point was used to kill a mastodon, they quickly shot me the archeologist mantra: "You can't say that! We don't know that for sure." Yes, yes of course that's true, but it's pretty cool that it might have been used to bring down a mighty mastodon. It's always amazing to think that a hunter some 10,000 years ago could have used the artifact in my hand to feed his family. Talk about bringing home the bacon!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Volunteer Day, Please Come and Help

Help, we need to finish this year's project with the lithics, stone
knives, pottery, and other incredible historic and prehistoric

Last Saturday The Imperial Valley Desert Museum had a volunteer day to
put artifacts into modern storage at our museum. These items had been
catalogued by the interns that worked this summer and they are leaving

We have a lot more to do and need 18 people to finish the job this
weekend! Please let me know we can count on you and make a commitment
to help the museum. Reply to this E-Mail and come on out this weekend
Saturday December 10th.

The event is scheduled for 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM   12/10/11

Martin Fitzurka
President IV Desert Museum Society

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Saturday Volunteer Day

On Saturday the museum held a Volunteer Day at the request of our two BLM interns who have been re-curating collections.

We had 13 people show up who contributed a total of 46 volunteer hours.

We completed the re-curation process on a total of of 16 boxes. This was not quite the goal of 20, but still a lot of work. This coming Saturday we are going to hold another Volunteer Day to finish the work.

Given what we were able to do this past Saturday we need 18 people to show up this next Saturday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Grant Workshop Update

The grant workshop is going great. We have had 22 participants over the last 3 weeks working on various funding projects. At the half way mark, we are more than half way to our goal of preparing 9 grants by the end of the program. To date, we have submitted grants totalling $63,000.00.

Preparing so many projects in such a short time is a real team effort. One grant took 3 people to prepare! One individual wrote the work plan, another person composed the narrative of why the collections are so significant to the Imperial Valley, and another person prepared the budget.

While all this was going on, someone else was writing the text for second grant, which was then edited and submitted the next day.

We just finished up another grant at today's Wednesday session and started working on the 6th. Whew!

Still a bit to do, but we are making good progress!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Volunteer Day

Tomorrow, the museum is hosting a Volunteer Day, at the request of our BLM interns. From 9:00am-3:00pm we will be bagging, tagging, and boxing artifacts from collections that the interns have re-curated over the last three months. We will be working on these collections for the next two Saturdays.

There are already 10 people signed up to come. We have spots for 12-14. So, if you are interested please look at the announcement in the most recent museum newsletter for contact information. If you are already signed up...

Then see you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grant Workshop Update - First Grant

If you read the blog from Wednesday you would see that we described completed a grant budget during the three hour workshop session. Well, participants who thought that was a long time did not see how much work actually goes into just the budget. This budget had to be written, justified with the great text, rewritten, revised, rewritten. We started the process of writing the budget at 10:00am. We were still working on it at 11:00pm. This was a long day, but the grant was due on December 1.

During the six weeks of the grant workshop at the museum we have a goal of writing nine grants. The first grant was submitted on December 1 at 2:00pm. It was an electronic submission through and the grant was for conservation planning. A lot of work has gone into this grant over the last two weeks. A portion of the abstract is below:

"This project will result in a strategy for sustainable long-term storage in the unique desert environment of the Imperial Valley. It will bring together specialists in environmental control, architecture, and artifact and archives conservation to create a plan that both works for the museum and can be disseminated to all the other museums in our area who are in a similar environment. We are perfectly positioned, and have the opportunity, to complete a nationally significant and achievable sustainability assessment at our new museum. Over the next two years, the Imperial Valley will become the leading provider of clean energy in the state of California. It is in this environment and with this support that the Planning Team will develop solutions to the storage concerns and climate systems; designate appropriate environmental targets; and develop a plan for adequate long-term storage. The feasibility study will analyze the rationale and prepare the team to develop an informed long-term preservation strategy. The priority recommendations will be implemented and monitored for twelve months to evaluate the project’s value as a benchmark for similar institutions in our unique desert environment."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grant Workshop Update

The grant workshop met today, for the third week. Today we went over "budgeting." During the seminar discussion we actually worked on a budget for one of the grants that we are working on. Participants had the opportunity to see how a budget is constructed, in all its boring detail.

The session lagged on, but the budget is probably one of the most important parts of grant writing. Without a budget there is no project. And you must be careful to included all necessary funds. The last thing you want is to commit to doing a project, and then realize you don't have enough funding.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Visiting Professional Profile: Jessica

Jessica is an archives consultant whose publications include Linking Past and Present: Taking a look at the Valuable World of Archives. Previously, she worked as the Special Programs Director at the Turks and Caicos National Museum (TCNM) and at various archives across southern Australia.

The institutions Jessica works for are small in size, but large in scope. In the Turks and Caicos, Jessica coordinated several grant projects, the most significant of which was the After School Learning Program. In the wake of a devastating hurricane, this locally funded project provided computers, internet access, and homework help for underprivileged students. At the end of the program, several students came to the museum to show off their most recent report card: they reach raised their grades by a full letter.

In Australia, Jessica worked on several archives projects to prepare collections for permanent storage. This yearlong visit was not without its fun. Jessica recorded her adventures for a travel blog as she whale watched on the shores of rural Victoria, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, and mentored youth on the 5-day Murray River Marathon.

Jessica is currently coordinating a 6-week grant writing workshop, held Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the museum. Originally from New York, the incredible desert views and pace of life in Ocotillo makes it extremely pleasant way to spend the winter.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What do you do on Thanksgiving Break.

The building has seen a lot of use this past month with two interns working everyday and now a six week grant workshop in full swing. There is someone in the building six days a week. With no cleaning or maintenance staff, there is noticeable wear.

Today, Davis was out of school and because he did not want to make coiled clay pottery, he got volunteered to clean the building. He cleaned all the restrooms, changed toilet paper rolls, and mopped and waxed all the floors. About three hours worth of work. All with no complaining. Well, all with little complaining.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Intern Profile: Jenica

Jenica is a conservation intern with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) El Centro Field Office where she is responsible for working on re-curating and moving the BLM’s artifact collections into the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Jenica will be at the museum until the first of the year.

 Before coming to El Centro, Jenica participated in two archaeological investigations in the El Paraίso Valley in Northwestern Honduras. These projects were focused on investigating ancient Maya villages on the edges of the Maya civilization and included laboratory work with the artifacts. While assisting Dr. Cassandra Bill, a ceramicist from Capilano University, Jenica discovered her passion for working with ceramic artifacts. The notion that someone made this pottery thousands of years ago to use in their home, much like the dishes used in any house today, is fascinating.

After she graduated from California State University, Stanislaus in 2010 with her BA in Anthropology, Jenica started her work with the BLM as an Archeology Technician in the Arcata office. While in Arcata, Jenica spent three weeks hiking the Lost Coast looking for the earliest archaeological sites in the Americas. She also had the opportunity to explore and excavate a number of Depression Era historic sites that were used for bounty and sport hunting as well as the historic logging town of Falk. These sites have not been excavated in depth and contain a wealth of information that can completely alter current perceptions of life in northern California, Oregon, and Washington from the late 1800s through the mid 1900s.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grant Workshop Wednesday

Today, was the second session of the Museum's grant writing workshop. The director, Neal V Hitch, presented the "Be Your Own Curator" grant that was used to develop technology infrastructure at the Turks and Caicos National Museum. Then participants had an opportunity to review their personal bios which everyone is working on. 

A lot of work was completed this week on a Conversation Planning Grant that is due on December 1. The program includes putting together an interdisciplinary team to evaluate the Museum's long-term storage capability. This week, staff worked on a preliminary building and collections assessment report and developed a project outline and abstract. Next week, prospective team members will be contacted about partnering with the museum. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Archaeology Hike

On Sunday, Chuck Bucher led museum staff on a hike to various archaeology sites on the east side of the county. At one of the sites we came across a hammer stone. It did not take long to find flakes of broken rock and a couple of very small pottery shards. This was a known area and it was good to verify that things have been left undisturbed. The museum has traditionally aided in the preservation of desert archaeology sites.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grant Seminar Begins

Today, the museum began a six week grant writing program. Jessica Brody is a visiting grant specialist who will be working at the museum for the next six weeks assisting with writing grants to aid in moving the Strategic plan forward.

Today, Dr Neal V Hitch, gave a presentation on creative staffing through program grants, and participants reviewed grants that the museum is currently working on.

Today's session was well attended with two Board members and two museum interns participating.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Informal Hiking Clubs

On Sunday, Museum staff joined Dr. Rich Ryan on a hike into Shell Canyon. Dr. Ryan has led an informal hiking club for several years. The club had its origin in BLM sponsored hikes into the desert. When the BLM program ended, a groups of "regulars" wanted to continue to experience the changing desert environment.

Dr. Ryan's groups has a goal of including younger members, people who have not been into the desert before. On this hike we were joined by three IVC college students. They were amazed at the geological formations of Shell Canyon.

The Museum would love to find a way to support and encourage these informal clubs which serve to celebrate the desert. We are not sure what role we could play, but we will continue to plan and investigate how we could be responsive to this group of stakeholders.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Grant Workshop to Begin

Jessica Brody is a visiting grant specialist who will be working at the museum for the next six weeks assisting with writing grants to aid in moving the Strategic Plan forward.

Every Wednesday, from 10:00-1:00pm, Museum staff will be leading a structured seminar on various grant topics.

Every Saturday, from 10:00-1:00pm, Jessica will be leading a workshop to assist participants who will each be working on a grant.

The workshop is open to anyone interested in gaining grant writing skills. All participants will have the opportunity to work on a grant for the museum.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Strategic Plan: Part 4

At the recent Annual Membership Meeting the Museum launched the Strategic Plan that was developed through public input during May and June of this year. The plan includes four primary goals that the Board has approved as the direction to move forward toward developing an exhibit and opening the museum. The goals and objectives are not in any priority but all four must move forward in equal measure for the museum to be successful.

Strategic Goal: Sustainable Funding

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Secure Annual operational Budget

ACTION PLAN: Secure core funding partner at $75,000.00 annually
Secure programming grants of $50,000 annually
Secure $50,000 in annual government operational support

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Develop endowments for long-term funding

ACTION PLAN: Develop Museum endowment of $250,000 by 2013.
Develop Museum endowment of $2.5 million in 3-5 years.
Assist with development of $1.5 million endowment
for Native American education and outreach programming
in Imperial Valley

Monday, October 24, 2011

Strategic Plan: Part 3

At the recent Annual Membership Meeting the Museum launched the Strategic Plan that was developed through public input during May and June of this year. The plan includes four primary goals that the Board has approved as the direction to move forward toward developing an exhibit and opening the museum. The goals and objectives are not in any priority but all four must move forward in equal measure for the museum to be successful.

Strategic Goal: Professional Research, Curation, and Education Program

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Internal Research Program

ACTION PLAN: Complete re-inventory of all artifacts
Active conservation lab program
Olla research program


ACTION PLAN: Develop lecture program
Revive publishing program
Develop educational/training program for CRM in IV  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Strategic Plan: Part 2

At the recent Annual Membership Meeting the Museum launched the Strategic Plan that was developed through public input during May and June of this year. The plan includes four primary goals that the Board has approved as the direction to move forward toward developing an exhibit and opening the museum. The goals and objectives are not in any priority but all four must move forward in equal measure for the museum to be successful.

Strategic Goal: Voice of Native Americans Past and Present

Strategic Objective: Native Voice in Exhibits

ACTION PLAN: Exhibits written in both archaeological and native perspective
Tell the story with the artifacts, the story is the Native American story
Exhibits focused on meaning of the past and meaning of the present  

Strategic Objective: Re-develop Indian Fair
ACTION PLAN: Revive and Develop the Imperial County Indian Fair

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Strategic Plan: Part 1

At the recent Annual Membership Meeting the Museum launched the Strategic Plan that was developed through public input during May and June of this year. The plan includes four primary goals that the Board has approved as the direction to move forward toward developing an exhibit and opening the museum. The goals and objectives are not in any priority but all four must move forward in equal measure for the museum to be successful.

Strategic Goal: Active, Dynamic Programs and Exhibits

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Install interactive, informative exhibits
ACTION PLAN: Develop first class, professionally designed exhibits

Interactive exhibits based on latest exhibit standards
Fund first-class, professional exhibit of $500,000-$750,000  

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Active programming based on traditional craft production

ACTION PLAN: Hands-on coiled clay art pilot programing
Seminar on traditional crafts
Flint knapping program

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Active, Interpreted Exterior Exhibits

ACTION PLAN: Develop indigenous desert plant gardens
Develop exterior desert trails
Develop exterior signage
Develop hands-on archaeology park  

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Focus on Technology

ACTION PLAN: Technological focus in exhibits
Develop technology library/research center
Museum as a technological hub for local youth

Monday, October 17, 2011

37th Annual Membership Meeting

On Saturday, the museum held it's 37 annual membership meeting. The day was a celebration of our past members. The theme was Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, and we took the opportunity to honor individuals from the past who lived in the Imperial Valley.

A total of 56 guests joined us for lunch and the general meeting. Three new Board members were voted in for new terms and the membership voted to remove "college" from the legal name of the corporation.

After several more hours of work and the submittal of documents to all manner of government agencies, we will be known as the Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society, Inc..

The Strategic Plan for opening the museum was unveiled and presented.

The meeting ended with the screening of Songs of the Colorado, a wonderful documentary on the traditional songs of the Native peoples of the Imperial Valley. This was followed by a discussion by Preston Arrow-Weed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting Ready for the Annual Meeting

Today, was a busy day at the museum. With lots of volunteers running around and making the museum feel vibrant. Well, maybe it was all of the color that was making the museum vibrant.

Steve and Marty spent the morning moving cases and cleaning things. Jimmy and Elanor came by to help. Helena and Susan came by with lots of family members in tow to get the decorations in place.

The museum looks great. Like it is set up for a party.

Tomorrow will be the 37th annual membership meeting of the Imperial Valley College Desert Museum Society, Inc.

See you soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gift Shop...Plus Gifts!

We have been working hard to finish the gift shop before the Annual Membership meeting on Saturday the 15th. This week the gift shop became a reality.

This is the first installation of something that is part of the plan for opening.

Thanks goes out to Chuck, Marty, Steve, and Jimmy. A lot of volunteer hours went into making this a reality. This included two trips to the Borders Bookstore in San Diego a few weeks ago; installing fixtures; ordering shop product.

Last week Jimmy spent two days wiring all the cabinets. We bolted the cabinets to the wall. Then Marty did the hardest job of cleaning all the cabinets. And that is the truth. It was the hardest job.

Natalie, one of the archaeological interns, had worked before in retail, so we drafted her to set up the newly arrived museum logo products. She did an amazing job folding t-shirts, which did not make her happy, but she came through by making a makeshift t-shirt folding board out of cardboard. I don't think the shop will ever look as good again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Coiled Clay Art in the Paper

Make sure you see the story about the coiled clay art project at Southwest High School that was the front page article in the Imperial Valley Press today.

The online version has a lot more photos!

See the Online Article by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coiled Clay Art at Southwest HS

Today was the first day of the coiled clay art program at Southwest High School. This is the second half of the coiled clay art project grant from the Imperial Valley Community Foundation.

For the next eight weeks the SAVAPA Art Club will be working with clay and investigating the shapes and styles of ollas in the museum's collection.

Today we took examples of the ollas from the Hammond/Butts collection into the classroom. I think this was the first time, in a long time, that artifacts have been out of storage and into the classroom. They went over great!

The Hammond/Butts collection was given to the college after the passing of Otha and Geraldine Butts. The collection was donated by their children. Included in the collection are several ollas that have been painstakingly puzzled together from hundreds of shards. This collection is numbered 2006-1, which means it was the first collection accessioned in 2006. It was brought into the new museum from storage, but no one could find any paperwork for the collection. This changed when Brenda received a call from the Hammonds asking about the collection, then she called the museum. She was able to described the collection, and it matched perfectly - another puzzle solved.

In the past months the museum has received several calls from people asking what is being done with the collection they donated to the college. Right now, the priority at the museum is to re-curate and inventory all of our private collections. No one collection is a priority over others. But the process is extensive and requires more money and staff.

We can say this, we know what is happening with the Hammond/Butts collection. It was the first collection in twenty years to be taken into a classroom and used as a teaching aid. And the kids loved it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

How do You Advertise a Museum?

Last week I went to an advertising seminar put on by the Imperial Valley Press. My first thought, when filling out the "Account Profile Questionnaire," was that a museum doesn't sell products so this is not applicable. But when I really looked at the questions I changed my mind. Every museum competes for the attention of visitors. People have lots going on and they make choices. Can you answer any of these questions? Answer by leaving a comment.

The Competition

1. Where are people buying your products or services if they are not buying from you?

2. How do your competitors advertise?

3. How do the prices you offer compare with those of the competition?

BLM Archaeological Interns

Two BLM Interns have been working at the museum for a month now. It is hard to believe it has been that long already. They are going through smaller collections, which was not necessarily the plan.

"We were going to do one large collection but that is not how it has worked out. We went through the card catalog that the last interns completed and started pulling BLM collections that we could find in the temporary storage," stated Jenica, an intern from Hollister, CA.

The pair has competed three entire collections already and is set to finish #1978-019 today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Do You Advertise a Museum?

Last week I went to an advertising seminar put on by the Imperial Valley Press. My first thought, when filling out the "Account Profile Questionnaire," was that a museum doesn't sell products so this is not applicable. But when I really looked at the questions I changed my mind. If you expect to develop exhibits that visitors want, you probably should know who your visitor is going to be:

Target Customers

1. What are your target customers like? (income? level of education?)

2. What distance will your customers drive to buy the product you sell?

3. Why should people come to you rather than somewhere else?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Do You Advertise a Museum?

Last week I went to an advertising seminar put on by the Imperial Valley Press. My first thought, when filling out the "Account Profile Questionnaire," was that a museum doesn't sell products so this is not applicable. But when I really looked at the questions I changed my mind. In fact, a museum does "sell" something and they certainly compete for a visitors time and limited resources. If we are going to develop and open a new museum, probably one of the first things we should be able to do is list what sell and what makes us unique. Everyone associated with the museum should try and answer these questions:

Business and Products

1. Exactly what products or services do you sell?

2. What makes your business and products unique or special?

3. Which of your products and services are your target customers mainly buying or about to buy?

4. What's your average sale per customer for these products?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Are Museum Gift Shops Important?

In 2000 I participated in a committee charged with revamping gift shops throughout the 61 historic sites and museums operated by the Ohio Historical Society. One of things that the committee focused on was that in the consumer oriented culture of the United States, people had begun to associate the quality of their museum visit with what they had purchased in the gift shop. What they took home from the museum directly effected what they thought about the museum and what they told others about their museum experience.

In 1999, the American Association of Museums published an article that exactly explained what our committee was responding to: many museums put too much "focus on collections and exhibitions and overlook the possibility that visitors may also seek contemplative space; a sociable encounter; a distinctive shopping experience; or a place where a family can spend quality time together."

In 2000, another author concluded that: "Just marketing a museum isn't good enough any more. With increased competition among museums as culture destinations, each must distinguish itself from the others. That's branding, and all good marketers are doing it." The gift shop became the place to "brand" the museum. 

Today, it should be clear to anyone who visits a successful museum that the gift shop is an important part of the experience. "The primary role of a gift shop in a museum setting is to generate financial support for, and to promote the mission of, the sponsoring institution," says Paulette Brown.

This idea of "brand" and "mission" are a key to the success of a museum shop. We are working hard to get our gift shop up and running by the annual membership meeting in October so that members can leave with our "brand" and hopefully they will help us with our "mission" by buying more of our "brand" to give to their friends.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Annual Membership Meeting

The Imperial Valley College Desert Museum Society, Inc. 

Will hold it's 37th annual membership meeting on
Saturday, October 15, 2011
at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum
Ocotillo, California

The theme is Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, and we are taking this opportunity to honor individuals from the past who are no longer with us as part of the tradition of Dia de los Muertos.

Come see the beautiful alters. 

This is a fundraising event with a donation of $35 per individual or $60 per couple. Lunch will be included for the fundraising portion of the event. If not attending the fundraiser, please come at 1:00 for the annual meeting if you are a member.

11:00 Social Hour
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Business Meeting including voting for Board of Directors
2:00 Screening of Songs of the Colorado 54-minute documentary
produced by Ah-Mut Pipa Foundation, introduced by Preston J. Arrow-weed,
Quechan/Kumyaa elder, and President of Ah-Mut Pipa Foundation.

Please RSVP by October 5, 2011, to Martin Fitzurka at 760-352-9650 (home); 760-482-7483 (cell); or email at

PLEASE send checks payable to IVCDMS, P.O. Box 2455, El Centro, CA 92244.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gift Shop...Minus Gifts

Last weekend we made our second run down to the Mission Valley Borders bookstore to get the store fixtures we had purchased a few weeks ago. Today we put them in place.

The store fixtures fit like they were custom made for the area we have to put them. The picture does not do them justice. We still have lots of work, however, wiring lights and securing the cabinets to the wall. Today was really just a "test" to see if they fit.

What we need now is shop product. The Desert Museum Society has a lot of books in storage at the museum. But Brenda reminded me today that a bookstore is not a gift shop. We put in an order for "logo" gifts today and a couple of weeks ago the Chairman of the Board of Directors bought bags of geology merchandise from  store that was going out of business.

That is a start...books, coffee cups, and rocks. There are only 101 shopping days until Christmas!

Christmas Clock

Friday, August 26, 2011

Logo Development

Today, I used Adobe Illustrator to create a logo that can be used on gift shop product. The logo on the fence at the entrance of the museum has been used before on t-shirts and other things. However, there is no electronic version of this logo that can be sent to anyone. I took a picture of the logo, brought it into Illustrator, created a line drawing, then filled it in. Wallah, three hours and a whole lot of tedious work later, we have an electronic logo that can be placed on a coffee cup.

Their Loss, Our Gain

A couple weeks ago I received a call from a Museum Member who was at the Border's book store in Mission Valley. The store is closing and they thought the museum should try and buy some of the shelving in order to build our gift shop. I happened to be in San Diego and I was able to get to the Borders store just before they closed to see what was available. It turned out to be a very good suggestion.

This week we have driven over to San Diego twice to buy closeout store fixtures. In June, we developed a plan of priorities that included getting a gift shop going:

"The gift shop is a key component of the visitor information center. The FY 2011 budget includes $6000 in gift shop receipts. Slat wall shelving will need to be purchased and installed. The museum has a supply of desert related books, but museum specific items logo items such as hats, cups, and prints will need to be produced and purchased."  

It took a while, but if all the timing works, we will have the gift shop furnishings installed by the membership meeting in October. This would be a huge step forward.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Volunteer Day

We had a successful volunteer day at the museum today. All of the accession records files were gone through and placed into the new fire proof file cabinets. Many of the files had old, brittle paper records, often original descriptions of the collections. These were being stored in zip lock storage bags. All plastic bags were removed from the files and the records were placed in new Melinex archival sleeves.

This is a very large step. Accession records are now permanently stored in the museum and can be used to cross check and verify artifacts and collections during the re-curation process.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

IMLS Grant

For the last 48 hours we have been working non-stop trying to get everything put together in order to submit an Institute for Library and Museum Service's program grant for the Grants for Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums program. And it really was most of the last 48 hours as the 6-page narrative text for the grant was written while staff staid up all night at the museum's overnight on Saturday.

A grant was submitted this evening in the amount of $95,779.00 for the planning and development of a Learning Lab. IMLS is funding 30 such labs in museums and libraries across the country. We just received confirmation that our application was received and validated at This is the abstract that was submitted:
The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is planning the development of a Learning Lab. At a minimum, the Lab would be a place where community youth would have access to internet, computers, and printers, and a staff member who could tutor or assist with homework, research, and academic projects. As envisioned, the Learning Lab will be a space where youth can explore natural science informally through connecting the natural history of the desert surrounding the museum with technological applications such as video editing, video webcasting, photo manipulation, graphic design, website development, and a new concept we are calling “geo-blogging.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Last Day in Ocotillo

by Martin Hitch

Last night the museum hosted its first "Starry Night at the Museum" program. This was an event celebrating the end of the museum's coiled clay art summer program, and attendance at the overnight was about as good as we have ever had at the program. 15 children, all  from Ocotillo, spent the night at the museum finishing up their final pots, firing some of the biggest pots made over the coarse of the program in an outdoor fire, cooking hot dogs, and stargazing.

Although  the night was wonderful, it was bittersweet. Not only does the event celebrate the last days of the program, but it also falls on my last day here in Ocotillo before I return to college.

I have had a great time this summer exploring the art of coiled pottery along side the students of Ocotillo, and I would like to thank the museum for providing me with this opportunity. I look forward to seeing this program evolve into something even larger. Whether that means weekend programming, or moving it into the classroom, I am proud to have been a part of this program.

Thanks for the great summer!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Starry Night at the Museum is Here!

Tonight we are hosting our first overnight youth event. We have fourteen kids at the museum. We made pots. We fired pots. We roasted hot dogs. We played games.

It is Midnight. We are just putting on the second movie. Don't you wish you were here?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Last Coiled Clay Pottery Class

Today was the last coiled-clay art class. As of last week we had had a total of 107 people come to the museum over the summer to participate. Even today, the last class, we had a first time visitor.

What a great program. Now it will take the rest of the year to clean up...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Starry Night at the Museum

The Museum will be holding a Starry Night at the Museum overnight on Saturday, August 13, from 8:00pm to 8:00am. Activities will include coiled clay pot making, t-shirt printing, and movie watching. We will be doing the final pit firing of clay pots made over the summer. This will also be the night of the Perseids meteor shower and we hope to glimpse some falling stars as well. 

The program will be limited to the first twenty kids who sign up with a parent or guardian. Please email to make a reservation. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

IV Press Article - Front Page today

Children wind clay into pots for cultural learning

Staff Writer
12:34 a.m. PDTJuly 28, 2011
OCOTILLO — Ocotillo resident Dillon Austin took care to smooth the sides of the project he spent hours creating Wednesday morning.

After winding together a coil for a base, he began building up the sides, one string of reddish-brown clay at a time. When finished, the hour glass-shaped pot was left to dry and be fired. It was Dillon’s first project for a pilot program art class at the Desert Museum. 

“I want to come back next week,” he said.

The 12-year-old was one of about a dozen children from here who wound together pieces of clay into pots at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Though it was Dillon’s first class, others have been going to the center all summer to play with the clay.

The class is one portion of the pilot program the museum is putting together, said Executive DirectorNeal Hitch. The steps after the summer class finishes will be to bring the art classes to a high school in the fall, and then exhibit what the high schoolers create.

The program allows children and students to see what it takes to make some of the pots that are at the museum, Hitch said. Having the experience of creating a bad pot — and everyone’s first pot is bad — makes the ones that were made long ago by the Kumeyaay Indian Tribe in the area a lot more impressive.

The students could see how hard it is to make some of the two-feet-wide clay pieces when those students are constructing ones that are only a few inches wide, he said.

The pilot project began after the museum received a $2,000 grant from the Imperial Valley Community Foundation, he said. The Howard P. Meyer Foundation in El Centro also contributed funding and ASM Affiliates archeology company gave money for the clay.

The program has been a big success so far as the museum has seen more than double the expected number of kids each day, he said. The real test of how popular it is is the number of kids who return and recommend that others come out, Hitch said.

“This is just something that it’s fun to be here,” he said.

Children at the event agreed that it was worth coming back to.

Brittany Rausa, 12, has been coming for weeks, and said that she really enjoys making the pots. Her first one didn’t turn out well, but they’ve been improving.

Her favorite part is getting to mold clay while talking with friends, she said.

For 16-year-old Lucas Hitch, it’s about a little more competition than that. He wants to make pots that are better than his teacher’s, and his are getting there.

While he would like to make a pot as good as those by the Kumeyaay on display, he doesn’t think that’s going to happen with only a few classes left.

However, he said, he can hope.

Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at or 760-337-3441.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

IV Press at Museum Today

Today, a reporter from the Imperial Valley Press came out to the museum to do a story about the coiled clay art pilot program.

The program has been going great. We have had 13 people show up at each of the last two sessions. Among our regulars it is still exciting to see new people almost every week.

I think kids are having fun. And they are getting better at coiling clay because the pots are getting bigger.

Keep your eyes peeled for a story in the paper...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Strategic Planning: Session Five

The fifth and final strategic planning session was held at the museum on June 21 at 5:30 in the evening. Planning session five specifically asked participants to create lists of things to “Do” at a park. The first activity was the completion of a mind map, a graphic representation of the idea of “park.” The next activity was the completion of three lists of potential park activities. At the end of the session, the group broke into two small groups to discuss “Safe parks” and “Sustainability.”
Large sheets of paper were prepared and participants were asked to say ideas out loud. Three sheet of ideas that you could “do” were recorded. At the end of the session, participants were each given four (4) orange sticky dots. Each person was asked to place dots on the words, or ideas, that they felt to be the most important on all three sheets.

There were lots and lots of ideas presented, at the end of the night, however, these ideas all received stickers:

10 Trails
          5 like a treasure hunt
          3 and hiking
          1 and read signage
          1 and geoglyph
8 Trails like a treasure hunt (on a different sheet than "treasure hunt" above)
7 Water Feature/Pool
6 Meteorological display
5 Native plant garden
5 Timeline Park – different sections represent different eras
3 Relief Map
2 Bike Trail
2 Climbing area/ with water mister
2 Hands on area
2 archaeology - physically do it
2 Living trails
1 Crucifix thorn
1 What was tool used for/archaeology display
1 Draw rock art  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Strategic Planning: Session Four

Planning session four was held at the museum on June 16 at 9:00am and it was our best attended session to date. The session followed planning session two in that participants were asked to make two lists. The first list were things that you could “SEE” in the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. The second list was things you could “DO” at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. 

Large sheets of paper were prepared and participants were asked to say ideas out loud. All ideas of both what you could see and what you could do were written down. After we filled the first sheet with ideas that you could “see,” we moved on to ideas that you could “do.” Many of the ideas that were listed on the second sheet, however, were still ideas that you could see. 

At the end of the session, participants were each given six (6) orange sticky dots. Each person was asked to place dots on the words, or ideas, that they felt to be the most important. If an idea was exceptionally important, it could receive more than one dot. The dots were a way to weight the ideas we had talked about. In this way, we hoped to get at the most important ideas that were discussed. A common comment at this point was that people did not have enough dots for all the good ideas we discussed.

The top ideas that had the most dots at the end of the session were as follows: 

1.  Creation of cultural things/traditional craft production (tie for first)
1.  History Off Roading (tie for first)
2.  Work in Lab
3.  Pots and Puzzles (Hands-on Lab activity of reconstructing pots from shards)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Strategic Planning: Session Three

Planning session three specifically asked participants to think about the design of landscaping beds and volunteer opportunities in developing gardens and landscapes.

The first project was to draw a map of the museum on a large tablet and begin to think about how the planting beds could be developed. John Estevane provided information on the what would grow well given the sun conditions around the museum. 

There are five planting beds around the museum. Planting bed number one is very large and is visible from the parking lot but not accessible by a path. This bed would be a good place to plant large cactus. Planting beds 2 and 3 are next to the entrance and will be the most accessible. These beds should be planted with varieties of cactus that bloom or are colorful. Planting beds 4 and 5 receive morning sun and afternoon shade. These beds would be good for varieties of bushes and small trees that need shade.

The second activity was to list all the volunteer activities that would be possible in setting up planting beds and landscape features. There is a long list of things for volunteers to do, that is for sure:

  1. Planting the cactus and other plants
                    a. Have organizations bid on these beds; the highest bidder gets to volunteer
                    b. Have college classes plant beds
                    c. Boy Scouts troops could plant beds
                    d. Optimist Club could organize individual volunteers
                    e. Service hours for High School students
  1. A single volunteer or team could organize equipment
  2. All rocks in the planting beds need to be moved before planting
  3. Collect rocks and organize by size
  4. Reline trails and beds with rocks
  5. Collect plants from Energy Projects and replant them
  6. Propagate cactus