Monday, December 8, 2014

Two NEH Grants Awarded

Today the National Endowment for the Humanities released the 2015 grant awards and we are elated to announce that the IVDM has been awarded two grants: 

Preservation Assistance Grant to bring in a consultant from the Arizona State Museum to evaluate storage layout and purchase supplies to improve storage and environmental conditions for the collections. $4,255

Challenge Grant to provide seed money for an endowment to support two permanent staff positions - the Head Curator and the Cultural Collections and Programs Curator 
Award of $260,000 upon a 3:1 match of $780,000 by 2019

We'd like to thank everyone who has given to the endowment over the past year. Developing a base of broad community support was important to show NEH that we can be successful if we won the grant, and it worked. The award of the Challenge Grant is an exciting development! We were one of 16 museums across the nation to receive this grant and at the end of the project we'll have over a million dollars to support staffing. Thank you for your support!

The National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence

The National Endowment of the Humanities supports research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities by funding top-rated competitive, peer-reviewed proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers. 
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Swinging on a Star

-by the Interim Head Curator

The weather is changing, turkeys are flying off shelves, Christmas decorations are going up, so we know what you're thinking about: what are the plans for New Year's Eve?

 This New Year's Eve will be the first annual primary fundraiser for the Imperial Valley Desert Museum.  Our party, a dress-to-impress dinner and dance themed "Swinging on a Star", is going to be the place to be for New Year's Eve!

December 31 at the Barcelona Event Center (330 Wake Ave, El Centro, CA) will be a magnificent evening, complete with a fabulous meal, dancing 'til 1am, a photo booth, party favors and more!  

Dinner: 7-9pm      Dance: 9pm-1am

Tickets are only $100 (for 2) and include dinner, the dance, and a bottle of bubbly (non-alcoholic available).  All proceeds go to the Museum's general operations fund.  Tickets can be purchased from: 

Tickets are limited, get them before they're gone!
Questions? Call Susan Farrar: 760-623-8015 or the IVDM Society:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cattle Call Farmer's Market

This is the first year the museum was part of Brawley's Cattle Call events. We set up in the kids corner and worked with about 82 students from 6 - 16 years.

One student remembered his fourth grade field trip 2 years ago and stayed to make a really nice pot. It seemed like a lot of kids were engaged enough to work for a long time, trying to get their pot shaped just right. A lot succeeded, and a lot of others are willing to keep trying at our next event. 

A big thanks to Lorraine Pritchett for donating the clay, which makes these types of events possible. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

So long- and thanks for all the fish!

-Anne C. Morgan, 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

-Anne C. Morgan, 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

-Anne C. Morgan, 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

-Anne C. Morgan, 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

-Anne C. Morgan, 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!

-Anne C. Morgan, 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.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Good Day for Ollas

We have been finding that the field notebooks that we have are invaluable. We have been going through the field book of Guido Bianchi. He was a photographer at the IVC Museum. This particular notebook, dated 1975-1977 includes his excavation of what was referred to at the IVC Museum as the "Fabian" olla. We had located this very large olla during the re-curation process. But no other artifacts had been found.

Jessica Brody was able to cross reference the site number recorded in Bianchi's notes with all of the records annotated by Mel Clifton-Harvey when she here in March 2013. The missing ceramic bowl was located in the IC and had been marked "no provenience." This was a great find.

A few pages later in the Bianchi field book he had notes and pictures of two ollas that had been brought into the college by J Harrington. One of these ollas was located in the olla storage room and had also been marked "no provenience." The Harrington ollas are in the accession record and were presumed missing.

This one field book verified two ollas which have now been identified, cataloged, and prepared for exhibit.

As we are getting further with our archives project, it is becoming apparent that some of the old field books, even the student field books, are the only source of information we have on some of the artifacts in the collection.

We want to thank everyone who has donated their notes and field books.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kickstarter Project

Just 36 hours left in our Kickstarter campaign. We are so thankful to the people who have given. It is really cool to see this project come together after three years. If you have not participated there is still time. But not much time.

You can check out the Kickstarter site by CLICKING HERE.  As of a few minutes ago we were just $75 short of $3,500. A $25 donation gets you an invite to a special private party once the observatory is up. Don't miss out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Firing Ollas

This week we successfully pit fired a group of pots. This is always stressful. In 2013 about 90 percent of the pots we fired broke. This year we have crushed up and re-purposed about 90 percent of the pots made at the museum. These are the first pots fired since last year. They came through without breaking...well almost. The neck of the carved pot broke when I tried to move it too early.

It has been very windy in Ocotillo, so it is hard to pit fire all the time, but this test was successful, so we will move onto the next test...firing the pots from the birthday party a couple weeks ago.

The young lady who wanted to have her birthday at the museum stopped by a couple days ago to see if we had fired her pots. We had not. But hopefully next time she comes by they will be.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Happy Birthday!!

"From the Interim Head Curator"

Partying with coiled clay
Today we were excited to host something a little bit different- a birthday party!  A lovely young lady asked if she could have part of her birthday party at the museum because of how much she "loves science and nature".  Who could say no to that?  So she and several of her best friends (ages 5-10) came out, got a tour of the museum, and made coiled clay pots with us. Several parents also joined in and it was a contest to see who could make the best pot- kids or grown ups!

They also helped us try something new in our exhibits.  We are starting to prototype part of our permanent exhibit to see what works and what should be changed, and these kids were the first to dive in and help us.  They explored, they tested, and were happy to tell us what they liked.  They can't wait to see the simple cardboard boxes we're using turn into drawers with even more cool stuff to see!  We learned a lot from them and are really excited to add some of their suggestions into our exhibit!  Thanks guys, and Happy Birthday!