Wednesday, October 11, 2017

An Archaeologist's Perspective: from the Field to Museum, Minoan to Kumeyaay

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by history.  It is more than a static list of events and people long-since passed.  It is instead the living narrative of where we have been, and of the human condition and perspective through time.  It encapsulates our collective achievements and failures – locally and globally – and everything in between.  History is the story of us; the people whose actions and thoughts are remembered through it are no less relatable today than your neighbor across the street.  And just like those neighbors in the past, today we live and create history with every passing moment.  It is our inheritance, and our own legacy. 

My name is Dr. David Breeckner.  I am an archaeologist.  It is my job to study human history and prehistory through both excavation and the analysis of the material goods or remains discovered within.  My background is in Mediterranean civilizations, with a focus on the Bronze Age Minoans. My specialty is pottery, the material that I consider to be the key to deciphering ancient peoples and cultures. 

Since August, I have traded the Mediterranean for the desert, and the Minoans for the Kumeyaay.  Driving across the country from my family's home in rural New Hampshire, I now live on-site in the town of Ocotillo, CA.  Over the next few weeks, I will share my experiences in the study of history, in the work that I've done, and the work that I do now.  I invite you to follow along as I “dig” into my own personal past.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Value of an Education

We held our first Evening w/ an Expert of the season tonight. It was a dinner event associated with the History 586 class that I am teaching at SDSU Imperial Valley Campus. The class has been looking at foodways from the paleolithic era to the agricultural revolution to the Roman Empire. We have been reading Feast: Why Humans Share Food, by Martin Jones, and Spice: the History of a Temptation, by Jack Turner. Tonight was a hands-on investigation of the taste of ancient foodways!

This is my favorite class that I teach, and my favorite event at the museum. We tasted four dishes that have come down through the ages, and students ate with lithic tools. What does that mean...

Seriously, students had a random selection of tools that they could use to eat with, from a basalt hand axe, to an obsidian point, to a hafted glass point knapped from the bottom of a beer bottle.

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum has a goal of being the most fun education institution in the region. I think we achieved that tonight!

After dinner Dr. David Breeckner presented his work on the ceramics of the Minoan civilization on Crete. In the History 586 class we had readings on Minoan Crete, so the tie in was amazing. It is one thing to read a book. It is a totally other thing to listen to someone talk about their direct experience with an archaeological site.

From start to finish, this was an amazing event. Thanks to all who came, and to all who supported the event. It costs a lot to do innovative educational programming. But there is a value in education. Both the food and Dr. Breeckner proved that tonight!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Project complete! For now

-from Anne C. Morgan

It's hard to believe it's nearly the end of September already.  A month ago I began an intense digitization project with the goal of scanning all photographs in the Harry Casey Collection that connected to geoglyphs.  In a collection of more than 8,000 individual images, I knew the bulk of them pertained to geoglyphs, but what did that mean? All 8,000? 7,000?

30 days, 230.5 hours, and 2 scanners later, the answer is 4,462.  That's the number of photographs scanned, although there were over 1,000 duplicate copies of individual images.

2 scanners worked hard on this project!
What's next? What was the point of becoming the Mad Scanner? I'll be working with photographer Harry Casey and Sunbelt Publications to put together Harry's manuscript with accompanying images for publication.  The museum will apply for grants to create an interactive digital exhibit based on the work.  After that? There are plenty more ideas waiting to be implemented- not to mention almost another 4,000 photographs of rock art, Nazca Lines, and desert plants waiting to be scanned and create exciting, interesting, and beautiful exhibits!

A special thanks to Dr. David Breeckner, Angelina Coble, and Marcie Rodriguez for all their help with this project!

Marcie examines a slide

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Storerooms are Open!

By Dr. David Breeckner, Scholar-in-Residence

New exhibits are coming to the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, and with them comes a host of new artifacts and research. Beginning in September 2017, the museum is launching a series of mini-exhibits designed to engage patrons with previously-unseen materials from its curated collections.

These exhibits are designed to be small in size and duration, but echo with the weight of something far greater. Visitors will find one of our new display cases, full of new objects and research. These cases and their contents demonstrate specific themes and ideas, exploring the contents and nature of the museum's material collections. These exhibits are fleeting and designed to only be featured for a limited period.   

...But never fear! From the ashes of one exhibit, another will rise to take its place. The Imperial Valley Desert Museum hosts a variety of archaeological materials in the Imperial Valley College Collection: pottery, lithics, fossils, multimedia (photographs, audio, video), and much more. Our goal is to showcase parts of this collection as it is researched - interpreting and celebrating the landscape and culture of the Imperial Valley Desert region. With this new program, the IVDM aims to make accessible that which was previously stored, bringing our backrooms to the exhibit floor.

This week we've unveiled our first exhibit in this series: Ceramics of the Americas. This mini-exhibit celebrates the material culture of native peoples from outside our immediate region. Both this week and in the weeks to come, there is something new for everyone. We invite you to come by and answer the question yourself: what's the new thing at the museum now?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Welcome, Dr. Breeckner, to IVDM!

~Education Coordinator, Marcie Rodriguez

This week we have a new face here at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, Dr. David Breeckner. Dr. Breeckner is our new Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. Hailing orginally from Connecticut, he graduated from Trinity College Dublin, in Dublin Ireland in June of 2017.

His backgroung is in Minoan ceramics, but is looking forward to expanding his expertise into our local pottery. Dr. Breeckner will be spending the next few months with us at the museum, and we are looking forward to seeing the research he produces.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hello Wood Published in ArchDaily this week

Arch Daily, a weblog covering architectural news, projects, events, and competitions published an article on the Hello Wood art and architecture camp that museum staff participated in this past July.

The review of the Alt Cathedral is very nice:

The cathedral in the Hello Wood village is under construction and has been expanding now for a second year running. This year, the church built on the ruins of the settlement that existed here three hundred years ago has been expanded with further elements: the communal spaces of a chapter house and a cloister. A special feature of the latter is that it is always open towards the interior garden of the chapter house, and so though it shuts out the outside world, this does not mean that its structure is not welcoming: inside, it makes space for people to gather.
One part of the communal spaces, also newly created, is reminiscent of a living room, while another is more fitted to fulfilling the functions of a bedroom thanks to the reclining spaces within. The residents of Hello Wood may just be visiting, staying temporarily in the village, but they still need places that can provide them with the comforts of home. At the same time, the expanded cathedral is a structure that can adapt flexibly to any kind of need. It can be a private residence for its builders, but it can also accommodate the more than one hundred residents of the village on a more spiritual occasion, such as for example a concert.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Geology Tool Box Lables!

~Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator

How rocks are defined with examples!
With the school year coming, the museum is finishing Geology: The Science of Getting Your Hands Dirty tool box. While the bottom half was desgined to meet 4th grade curriculum standards, the top we designed to me more flexible. It explores how rocks are defined using geologic terms, what sort of uses different rocks have, and what local rocks are being used for. They also get to see a variety of fossils, many of which are from our valley.

A collection of fossils!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

History on the Go! goes to Summer Camp!

~ Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator

One of our youngest students
shyly shows off his pot.
180 students made pots
Albert works with the older students
Today, education staff went to the City of El Centro's Summer Camp program with our History on the Go! program. We saw 180 students, ranging from toddlers to preteens. We were thrilled to get to work with so many students, at such a range of ages. We taught them how to make pots the same way the native people of the Imperial Valley made pots for the last 1000 years. It was good to see so many children connect with the history of their homes, and smile while doing it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

La Posta Makes Pots

- Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Education/Curation Staff

Today, Albert, Angelina, and I did a History on the Go program at the Boys and Girls Club at the La Posta Reservation of the Kumeyaay Nation. After we had unloaded everything, thirteen children lined up to make pots. Angelina did a small presentation while Albert finished setting up.

Some of the students recognized me from Earth Day, where we did a History on the Go here as well. I happily greeted these kids and they kindly became secondary teachers. Albert and Angelina got their hands dirty while I patrolled, making sure any kids that needed help got it.

The staff at the Boys and Girls Club were happy to see the kids engaged and enjoying themselves.

The students made some beautiful pots and everyone walked away with smiles on their faces, including our staff. After our History on the Go was done, we volunteered to help the Boys and Girls Club unload a food delivery they had received.

Definitely a success in my book!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hello Wood Art and Architecture Camp

This past week, Neal V Hitch and Neal Lucas Hitch attended and taught at the Hello Wood art and architecture camp in Budapest, Hungary. This camp brings together architecture students from around the world to build architectural installations using wood.

Dr. Hitch, our museum director, was selected as one of six team leaders to build an installation. The selections were based on a call for proposals submitted last March for the development of art installations based on the theme "Project Village."

Neal Lucas Hitch, who has served as a visiting artist at the museum and built the Ocotillo Observatory, designed a structure called the Alt-Cathedral. Following the theory of "Adaptive Use,"   the installation was intended to be a habitable sculpture to serve as a flexible space for human scale fellowship and interactions. The pictures included here show the design that was submitted and the project as built.

Twelve architecture students joined Neal and Lucas as part of the building team and constructed the installation during the nine day camp. As part of the art project, during the week the installation was "activated" with a cello concert and a wine tasting event. Dr. Hitch also presented two lectures, one on the subject of desert sized art, which has been a theme of the Imperial Valley Desert Museum.

The project was extremely successful and we will follow up with additional information if articles or reviews are published on the project.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

KXO's Freedom Fest!

Edgar helps students make a bowl

- by Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

The rattle-cobra
Did you see us at KXO’s Freedom Fest 2017?!

On the Fourth of July, we set up a coiled clay booth at IVC for this annual event. We love working events like this! Angelina, Marcie and I made clay pots and figurines with children for the entirety of the event. Many students got really creative with their figurines. One even produced a lifelike cobra with a rattlesnake tail!

The event was super fun and the fireworks at the end of the night were the cherry on top.

One of the fireworks in the grand finale

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Exhibit Testing

 ~ Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator

We at the museum have begun to use the tool box that was donated by Home Depot to test out our third phase of our permanent exhibit. We will be changing out the artifacts and information within the tool box to gather information on our visitors interest on a variety of subjects. We are looking at the desert as a tool box! We compare the tools our desert provides compared to the tools we normally would have in a tool box, and how those tools were created! Come out to the museum and check it out, and tell us what you think!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Summer Field Trip

~Edgar Bernal Sevilla 

This week, we had an amazing field trip with the Imperial County Office of Education and their Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) summer school class from Southwest High School. Though the class was small, with only two students, they came along with two staff people and we had a great time. 

They were given a tour through the museum floor by our director Dr. Neal Hitch and myself. Afterwards, they got a special, behind the scenes look at the lab and our collections rooms, and then got to make coiled clay pottery, which they enjoyed so much that they asked us to keep their pots and fire them. 

What was the most fun, though, was the exciting game of Shaahuk, a traditional Kumeyaay game played with a type of dice. The students so thoroughly enjoyed the game that they went back to their classroom the next day and made their own Shaahuk table!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Big Shout Out to Home Depot!

~ Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator

Thanks to Home Depot, we have a new tool box that is being set up  for the testing of Phase 3 of the permanent exhibit. We will be putting a variety of artifacts and tools into the case and recording the reactions and interest within our community to those objects. As we begin preparing for the design and construction for Phase 3, or the third section, of our permanent exhibit, it is important to see what our community wants to see within that exhibit. This case gives us the flexibility to test and get feed back on the subject. A special thanks to Tom Gonzales for picking up the case, and taking it to get it wrapped!

Friday, June 9, 2017

New Computer Means New Work Stations!

~Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator

Thanks to a generous donation from the Museum of Photographic Arts, in Balboa Park, we have 2 new iMacs for the museum! The question the museum faced next was, where to put them? The first one was an easy answer, as the front desk was in desperate need for a computer. The second one was able to find its home today, thanks to a little reorganizing.

The geologic
samples that were spread across the counter in the curation lab were condensed to a bookshelf, where they can still be accessed by staff and public. That left us with a beautiful, empty space to create a new space for staff to work at. Staff were excited to see the completed space, and are excited to have the new computer to work with.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Just When You Thought Field Trips Were Over

5th graders from Brawley Christian Academy were at the museum today.

Though the forecast this morning warned of 106 degree temperatures, that dd not deter from a robust museum field trip experience. This included propagating pencil cactus.

Though it was hot, it was pretty cool! And we had a fun learning objective today.

We filled small ceramic pots propagating Cylindropuntia ramosissima, a pencil cholla native to the Sonoran Desert, and Euphorbia tirucalli, or pencil cactus native to India. 

Though not endemic to Southern California, the pencil cactus grows as big as a tree and can be found as an ornamental plant in private homes around the Valley. When cut it secrets a milky white sap that is toxic, but it propagates super well from a cutting. 

Because it is not native, I refer to it as our No. 2 Pencil Cactus!

Barona Seniors Luncheon

We had a luncheon for the Barona Seniors group today, hosted by our Board member Johnny Elliot. For all of them, this was the first time they had been to the museum.

We had to pry them away from the First People Kumeyaay video when lunch was served, but it was a great day. A nice presentation on the history of the museum by our director, Dr. Neal V Hitch.

The star of the day, however, was the hamburgers from the Red Feather Cafe. They have to be the best hamburger in the Valley.

Though we are closed on Mondays, we occasionally host events. So, if you need a space for something special on a Monday...

Give us a call.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Nothing to Wine About

By Edgar Bernal Sevilla

As most of you reading this know, we had our annual wine “tasting”  event on May 18th. This year, rather than being put in a corner presenting about the Childers Collection, I was tasked with socializing... 

What a tough job, I know. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I loved this task.

But it’s not what you think. It’s no secret that I am passionate about my work here at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. I’ve had family in the Sonoran Desert for at least 300 years, so my roots run extremely deep in the desert sand. It was the Imperial Valley Desert Museum that helped spark my interest in our regional landscape, which I had previously (and sadly) thought of as just an empty space between agriculture and San Diego.

My work here has helped correct that misguided view I once held about the desert. Also, working with youth  during the hiking part of our field trip programs has been incredibly fulfilling. Nothing compares to helping children grow up with a different view than I had of the desert, one of disdain and indifference.

Being in a situation where I can talk about my love for the museum and my work there over a glass of wine was fantastic. I enthusiastically talked the ears off of quite a few people at the event. I’ve been told I was all over the place: giving wine recommendations, tending tastings to a few tables, explaining the intricacies between the whites and the reds (in full disclosure, I got a lot of inside information from Fernando Gaxiola, the curator of the wines, when I helped set up the tasting tables – I also had the first tasting of the night!). I wasn’t counting what I was doing, I was just having fun.

But it wasn’t just nothing. I received good community feedback about my newspaper articles, completely unprompted, which was very encouraging for me as a young writer. I had brief conversations about the importance of research at the museum. I was also able to speak of the importance of staffing.  So, behind the facade of just tasting wines and having a good time, I actually got a few important things done, which I think was Neal’s intention when he tasked the museum staff with being part of the event rather than just working the event. 

The important things were that our 2017 Art, Music, and Wine event successfully fundraised several thousand dollars and everyone had fun. I think both of those goals were wildly successful, and in many ways exceeded expectations. Personally, I thought I was going to have fun, but I didn’t know I’d have a blast and make the museum a little money while doing it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Wine Tasting Success!

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum's annual wine tasting event, "Art, Music, Wine", has come and gone, and was a tremendous success! We had 162 guests, who enjoyed wine from Baja Wine + Food, hor d'oeuvres from Sobe's Restaurant, music from Wilson Jr High School's orchestra, and an art exhibit featuring the work from the Imperial Valley Artists Collective.

The star of the event were the wines!

"Wow! I was so impressed with the wines from Guadalupe Valley." was one comment.

"I loved all three red wines, but the third one was my favorite." was another.

While sampling wine, the guests were able to participate in a silent auction. The proceeds from both the auction, and the wine tasting went to our National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant. This grant is building our Endowment Fund, which will provide two staff positions when fully funded. The National Endowment for the Humanities matches the money raised 3:1, helping us reach our goal of one million dollars by 2019.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Got the Wine List Today!

The Art, Music, Wine event tomorrow at the Old Post Office Pavilion in El Centro should be very cool if it is anything like this article, "Catching the Buzz on Baja Wines a Q&A with Fernando Gaxiola." He is from Baja Wine + Food, who will be bringing the wines tomorrow night!

"I have curated a portfolio of wines from the most prestigious, high-quality and consistent Baja wineries. This wines have been carefully selected based on hundreds of tastings in the U.S. and [knowing] what the American palate likes; it has also been validated by Master and Advanced Sommeliers. This portfolio is complementary where not a single wine is competing against another. This portfolio is imported by Truly Fine Wine (a local importer/distributor with the highest credentials in the wine industry), where I am a partner. So, I am involved in the import/distribution side of the business. TFW holds the most important alcohol licenses like import, distribution, online, direct-to-consumer and even retail [in the Bay Ho area].
Valle de Guadalupe wines featured at a recent tasting led by Gaxiola [Photo by Kate Kelly of Mixte Communications]
Valle de Guadalupe wines featured at a recent tasting led by Gaxiola [Photo by Kate Kelly of Mixte Communications]
As [proprietor of] Baja Wine + Food, I focus more on the marketing, PR and everything promotion related things. My strategy is, again, to partner with the local cuisine (Baja-Cali region) and create cross-border culinary experiences. We also produce our own events. We participate in dozens of festivals, expos, competitions locally and nationally. We bespoke culinary traveling experiences to Valle de Guadalupe, which is now one of the most important components of the company because it’s also a great opportunity to sell wine at the winery with home delivery in the US, and that way the restriction of crossing one bottle per person every 30 days is irrelevant. Traveling is very special for us because there is nothing like connecting with the terroir of Valle through its wines and food. Some of my clients have B&Bs, restaurants, stables, spas, etc. which allow us to deliver a holistic experience of Valle (most experiences are culinary, but we do corporate, spiritual, artistic, etc. – all tailored to our clients. "

We just got the descriptions of wines that we will be tasting, and they sound GREAT!:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Good Day for Clay!

We are having a big coil clay day today with staff running booths at both the Campo Environmental Fair and at the Earth Day fair at La Posta. This might be the first time we have been spread out at two events, but Angelina, Edgar, and Marcie were all excited as they packed the History on the Go car this morning at 8:30am and headed for East County San Diego.

Coiled Clay at Fairs and Festivals is one of the largest public outreach activities that we do. These will be two of the last events of the season, but so far since January 1,048 youth have learned how to create a ceramic olla at one of our booths. And all most all of them had fun!  

Friday, May 5, 2017

De Anza Field Trip

~Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator

Field trips are an integral part of life at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Today, we hosted a field trip that was a little different from our norm - with both 1st and 3rd graders. The students came from De Anza Magnet School, which is an elementary school in El Centro, California, which focuses heavily on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). We divided them up into 4 groups, and had them do rotations of history, art, and two science sections.

The history section, “Masters of the Desert,” takes students into a specific part of the museum, to talk about artifacts and exhibits that match what students are learning. For 3rd graders, they looked at the resources that exist within the Imperial Valley, and how humans adapted to use those resources. 1st graders on the other hand, use this time to compare the way people live in the Imperial Valley today versus a 1,000 years ago.

During the science sections, 3rd graders were able to explore how plants adapted to live in our environment through the propagation of ocotillos in our cactus gardens. At the same time, 1st graders were able to learn which plants grow here in the Valley. They also, planted a couple cacti in the garden!