Monday, April 23, 2018


-David Breeckner, Interim Executive Director

Mike Rood shows constellations through a telescope to a young astronomer
Last night the Museum opened its doors for a special evening event – a night under the stars!  Against the backdrop of movies and some very special arts and crafts (applying mosaic to our new tortoise sculpture), 166 visitors joined museum staff and volunteers in enjoying this latest celestial event.

Mike Rood describes meteors before visitors search the skies
Opening with an introductory talk by IVDM board member and amateur astronomer Mike Rood, guests to the museum learned the origins of meteors and meteor showers, and the importance and timing of the Lyrids.  Using the mobile app Night Sky, Mike took his audience on a whirlwind tour of the constellations that fill our horizon.  The ensuing barrage of questions by the younger members of the audience showed their interest in the talk and all things astronomical – the difference between an asteroid and a meteor (size, origins, and material composition), if the stars had always been in their current places in the night sky (they haven’t), and the origins of their names and meanings in different cultures and places (it’s all relative).

Red lights preserve night vision while still lighting the way
Waiting on the setting sun, museum guests eventually left the air-conditioned building to set up their lawn chairs or drop a cushion and to await the heavenly show.  No telescopes were necessary this night, though many took advantage of their own or others’ to get up-close looks at the various celestial bodies.  Two lucky visitors looked up at the night sky through a brand-new pair of high-magnification binoculars, courtesy of winning the night’s $5 raffle.  Guests stayed outside and enjoyed their time for nearly two hours, closing the event well past its original 9 pm conclusion.  Despite the high winds typical to the region, propelled eastward over and down the Jacumba Mountains, guests remained unflinching in their skyward fascination.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Fair Day

Marcie Landeros works with clay at the Children's Fair

Kids visiting IVDM's booth 

Saturday was a day of fairs across central and western Imperial County and the Imperial Valley Desert Museum was thrilled to be able to join in.

The 39th Annual Children's Fair meant Bucklin Park was the place to be in El Centro- the Imperial Valley Press estimated 15,000 people came out during the day to enjoy music, face painting, food, and arts and crafts!  For the sixth year in a row, the IVDM joined the fun.  Over 600 people came by our booth to talk about the museum, and find out about tonight's Stargazing event. Staff members Anne Morgan and Marcie Landeros, volunteer Neil Zinn, and local student volunteers worked together to show kids how to turn clay into any shape and design they could imagine.  Kids created bowls, hearts, animals, and more and enjoyed every second of it!

Meanwhile, up in In-Ko-Pah, musicians, artists, and families celebrated Earth Day at the Desert View Tower.  IVDM Interim Director David Breeckner and education staff Edgar Bernal Sevilla encouraged visitors to join them in making crafted ceramic pots and figures.  Parents and children alike got in on the fun, working with muddied hands to make something worth taking home!  Over 125 visitors - many from San Diego county - stopped by the booth to learn about the museum's current activities and events.

Fairs and events like these make for long days, but are always immensely rewarding.  We look forward to them every year!  From teaching a father and his two young sons the art of a traditional craft, to watching a little girl laugh with glee as she presents her dirty hands to her mother, the IVDM is thrilled to be a part of the IV community, sharing with them its passion and understanding of the past.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Miller's Spring

- David Breeckner, Interim Executive Director

Old Highway 80
The Imperial Valley is a place steeped in history – from its beginnings as a part of the Gulf of California to the many appearances and disappearances of Lake Cahuilla and the Salton Sea, from the indigenous Kumeyaay to the first settlers, and from the old stagecoach routes to the current I-8. Few, however, remember a unique piece of local legend: the story of Al Miller, his garage, and an infamous tourist trap – Miller's Spring.

Hiking the old highway
On Sunday, April 1, twelve hikers set out from the Imperial Valley Desert Museum for an exploratory tour which retraced the origins of Miller's garage and Miller's Spring, and their mutual history with the valley's evolving highway system. Walking along the cracked concrete surface of the old highway, US 80, hikers began their day at 8 o'clock from the site of Miller's second garage – a massive, but derelict site still visible to anyone driving westbound on the modern I-8. Their goal? To hike from Miller's second garage to his first, and from that first one, to retrace the original footpath he had installed, up a nearby hill, to the site of his namesake spring.

US-80 first came to the Imperial Valley in the late 1920s, receiving a designation in 1926 and opening in 1927. Its concrete remains are still visible today across the western Imperial Valley and eastern San Diego counties, often seen winding alongside the current road in reflection of the early stagecoach trails.  Miller came to Ocotillo from Mountain Springs.  It was in Ocotillo that he built a garage in 1933, running a brisk business towing drivers and their cars up the grade to Jacumba.

Climbing Miller's trail
Not content with a single venture, Miller created a walking path that led from the back of his original compound along US-80, up a nearby hill, and to a site he named "Miller's Spring."  For the price of a dime ($1.92 by today's rate), Miller would let visitors rest and stretch their legs before their journey up the grade to the west.  Following a path lined with white-painted stones, still visible today from the eastbound lanes of I-8, visitors would summit the small hill to discover a truly remarkable site: a bench constructed from an old car frame and its rusting, SPRING suspension.

Did we mention the day of the hike?  In true April Fool's Day fashion, the twelve hikers that set out on the IVDM's Director's Hike, led by Interim Executive Director David Breeckner, were treated to one of the region's earliest long-standing practical jokes.  For a requested donation of 10 cents, the day's hikers followed in the footsteps of Miller, retracing the lost history of the area and adding their own part to its story.

Miller's Spring: one of the region's earliest long-standing practical jokes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Start Your Tortoises!

-Neal Lucas Hitch, Artist-in-Residence

David Breeckner, Dan Evers, Neal Hitch bring statue into museum

This week the museum officially began the final stages in completing our next piece of desert-sized art. On Wednesday, March 28, a group of fourth graders from Meadows Union Elementary School in Holtville visited the museum as part of our regular field trip program.  Little did they know that, in addition to studying rocks, they'd be working with them!  Together, these students applied the very first tessera (a small stone used in constructing a mosaic) onto our Giant tortoise sculpture that will be installed outside on the museum grounds.

The Tortoise sculpture is the culmination of a long collaboration between the Desert Museum and Rainforest Art Project, and funded through a grant by the California Arts Council. The core of the sculpture is a lightweight concrete and foam tortoise that was fabricated by craftspeople at Rainforest Art Project. Starting this past Wednesday, the concrete base will now be covered by thousands of colorful stone pieces -- all hand-applied by elementary and middle school students from across the Imperial Valley. The result of their work will be a three-by-seven foot radiant tortoise watching over the museum grounds.
After one field trip, the shell is well underway!