Monday, May 30, 2011

Building Interest in Artifacts

Today Eric and Angela came by the museum. Eric is finishing an article he is writing about the museum for a journalism class at the Imperial Valley Community College. Last week we met for an interview in El Centro.

Today, he came by to get some pictures of artifacts for his article. We spent some time going over curatorial standards and procedures. I am sure that this was more information than he needed, or probably wanted. But I think that the best "learning" happens by "doing." So I had Eric bring out Box 31 of the Salton Sea Test Base and we talked about the difference between points and lithics, curation and cataloging, and the proper handling of artifacts.  

When he writes his article he is going to send us a copy and maybe you will be able to see it here!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AAM Presentation

This week the Director is attending the American Association of Museum's annual conference in Houston.

On Monday he presented in a session on Collection Management Plans. A collections management plan is a document that "guides the content of the collections and leads staff in a coordinated and uniform direction over time to refine and expand the value of the collections in a predetermined way." 

At the IV Desert Museum the Collections Management Plan will be an integrated strategy to help develop exhibits, programs, and plans for future accessions. In writing the plan, we will be using the following outline that has been adapted from an article entitled "Collections Planning: Pinning Down a Strategy."

This method of writing a Collections Plan as part of a Master Plan is what the director presented:

1) What is our audience?

2) How do we engage them?

3) What are the strengths and weaknesses of our collection?

4) What is our ideal collection?

5) Is there anything else we need? What would we take if it were donated?

6) Who has “complementary collections” to ours?

7) What are our needed resources for using collections to build exhibits or programs?

8) What action are we going to take?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Collections Management Policy

Definition: A detailed written statement that explains why a repository/museum is in operation and how it goes about its business. It articulates the repository/museum's professional standards regarding objects left in its care.

A couple weeks ago the museum's Board approved the Collections Management Policy. This is one of the key documents needed to run any museum. Writing and approving the Policy was a process that took about about three months. We reviewed several policies from similar sized museums. We reviewed suggestions set forth by the American Association of Museums. We eventually decided that we wanted a policy that was clear and easy to understand, but still provided the basic legal structure required to care for a collection of artifacts. Then we spent four weeks writing it. 

Once written, the policy was reviewed by a museum colleague not associated with the Desert Museum, and then it was reviewed by members of the Board. At last month's meeting it was approved. 

This was a lot of work. Work that no one will ever see. And work that few people will appreciate. 

But this was one of the key objectives of moving the Desert Museum toward opening, and now it has been completed. 

Now we are moving on to the Curatorial Procedures, Collections Management Plan, and Collections Conservation Report. All documents that are really, really important to opening the museum, but which few people who visit the museum will ever see or care about.   

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer Programs?

Yesterday, Sabrina came by the museum to see what is going on. She had read the newspaper article a few weeks ago and had contacted the museum to set up a tour to see the building.

She is a teacher in Imperial and has several kids from Ocotillo in her class. She is very interested in the museum developing summer programs. She expressed that the kids in Ocotillo need somewhere they can go to be stimulated. They need internet. They need computers. They need projects.

She was hoping that the museum was in the position to provide this.

What she was talking about sounded a lot like a program I had run at the Turks and Caicos National Museum called the After School Homework Program. For this program the museum had received a grant to buy computers and hire an intern coordinator/tutor who worked with local youth from 3:00-5:00 everyday, helping them excel. During the two years we ran this program we attracted 28% of the students who lived on the island of Grand Turk. The kids who came through our program received the top grades in their classes. One of our students (with a letter of endorsement from the museum) went on to the engineering program at Leicester University in England. One of our local student interns, who helped with the program, received the highest grade in the country for her elementary teaching practicum.

I will include a picture of our program in operation in the Turks and Caicos. It was exciting to be in a museum that was full of kids working and learning.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lunch and a Jump Off

This week the BLM held a consultation meeting at the Museum. Over forty people were in attendance. The classroom was full. Lunch was catered by Famous Daves BBQ with tables placed out on the exhibit floor. After discussions and presentations, groups jumped off from the Museum out into the desert to visit sites.

Friday morning we had a visitor stop by. He had seen all the cars in the parking lot last week when the Border Committee was here for a tour and with all that activity he thought for sure we had opened. We had a good discussion about what "open" means. In the last couple of weeks we have had curatorial interns in the building ever day working on collections, we have had a volunteer day, we have hosted a couple meetings, and we have had people stop by for tours of the new facility. Actually, when you think about it, we have had over 100 people visit
the facility this month.

Is that "open?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Intern Program coming to a Close

This is the last week for Amy and Mark to be working at the museum.

They have been working for nine months out of the El Centro Bureau of Land Management offices through the Student Conservation Association. During the last couple of days they will be tying up loose ends with collections that have moved into permanent storage. They will be leaving the Imperial Valley on Friday. As interns, they have been the core of the Museum's re-curation program this year.They have re-curated over 2000 artifacts from three different collections. The main collection they have re-curated was the 1979-8, which came from where the museum is located today.

Through the El Centro BLM office, they also participated in desert restoration projects and field surveys.

This summer Amy will be participating in archaeological excavations in Pompeii. Mark will be working at the El Dorado National Forest as an archaeologist.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Volunteer Day

Today we had a volunteer work day at the museum to assist with the re-curation of collection number 1979-8.

This collection consists of the artifacts collected at the museum site by the Imperial Valley College Archaeology Field School in 1979. If you look at the collection number, it will tell you that this was the eighth collection accessioned in 1979.

Part of the process of opening the museum, actually maybe the most important part, is re-curating the collection as it is brought into the new facility for permanent storage. This process will take a long time as there are several steps, each in themselves rather time consuming and expensive.

But today approximately a dozen volunteers made quick work of about two dozen boxes of artifacts that are now stored permanently at the museum.

If you came and helped, thanks, you were a huge help!  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Border Field Coordinating Committee

The US-Mexico Border Field Coordinating Committee stopped by to tour the museum today. They were a group of about 30 people from various government agencies who are coordinating policy and programs along the border. The museum was just one of their stops and a quick one. They received about a 10 minute tour to hear our plans for the future.

Though the visit was brief, it went very smoothly and was appreciated.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Long Time Friends of the Museum

This last week Bud, Carol, and Lorraine called to ask if they could drive over from San Diego to the museum to hear about our plans. Lorraine was a long-time friend of Jay von Werlhof. She was in the first class he taught at San Diego State University. She related many stories about a summer spent on an archaeological survey near Blythe in 1975, and brought one of her field books to show us.

They toured the empty facility and heard about our plans for the future. They were enthusiastic about the possibilities of how they might help us. And they left with a mission.

In the future, we hope to have a post about something they think they may be able to help us with...