Sunday, June 2, 2019

A New Curatorial Intern!

~ Mary Jane, Summer Curatorial Intern

Hello! My name is Mary Jane and I am a law librarian. I was born and raised in the Imperial Valley and because I am a desert girl at heart, I returned home as soon as I graduated. I earned my Bachelors from California State University of San Bernardino in Public and Oral history as well as a certification in Museum Studies. 

Currently, I am finishing my Masters in Management of Library Information Sciences program at the University of Southern California. I have always had a passion for libraries, museums and history, so I am honored to be interning with the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, expanding my knowledge and gaining experience in the fields of preservation, archiving, and museum practices. 

While at the Museum, I will be working on a couple of projects. I have already begun work on sorting and cataloguing the museum's Reference Library to make the materials more accessible for staff and researchers.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Confrences and Grad School

~Marcie Landeros, Museum Manager

This week David and I took a trip to New Orleans for an American Alliance of Museum's Conference. As I sat on my second plane, in Houston, Texas, getting ready to turn my phone off for takeoff, I received an email. Oklahoma University had accepted me into their Museum Studies Grad School program!

The program is online, so I will get to stay with the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, while also finding out what the most cutting edge museums are doing. At the conference, I spent one day going to sessions and talking to professors working in museum studies departments. I cannot wait to start my program so I can knock the socks off of everyone when they see the cool things we are already doing at IVDM.

I spent another day focusing on the diversity of Indigenous Peoples and their inclusion and representation in museums. I am proud to say that there is a strong Indigenous voice throughout our institution. I now have some new ideas on how to continue that into our Phase 3: Geology Exhibit design. While here, we are also are checking out the latest technology in museums, getting a chance to test things out as we plan our next steps!

While David has returned home, I will be staying a few more days. I will be back next week, refreshed and full of new ideas! See you soon!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A New Artist in Residence!

~John Andrew Davis Hitch, Artist in Residence 

      Hi everyone! My name is Davis Hitch and I’ll be working for the next month as the artist in residence here at the museum. I'm a recent college graduate from Judson University in the Chicago Suburbs, double majoring in Biology and Biochemistry. Bringing a new perspective from the Mid-West I am an advocate for environmental work, planning on continuing my education further into conservation biology. I attended high school here in the Imperial Valley at Southwest and am familiar with the desert and all it has to offer, so much so that I've decided to join the team working on a few projects alongside the museum. I’ve lived in many crazy places; Ohio, the Caribbean, Catalina Island, Yellowstone National Park, and the Chicago area. Working a wide variety of jobs, albeit the Imperial Valley left an impression that I cannot seem to get away from no matter where I go. 

         I have prior experience working along side the previous artist in residence, Lucas, on finishing the Museum’s Observatory as well as the Kerplunk Buildings, where combined I personally laid down over two tons of cement to permanently fix these structures as a part of the museum and the desert skyline! I'm joining the team to complete the ongoing Tortoise Enclosure exhibit and I'm excited to say it’s making fast progress! I am passionate for animals, life, and the desert itself, and am looking forward to helping out! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

~Dr. David Breeckner, Executive Director     
Greetings from Greece!

Since 2011 when I first started as a wide-eyed student volunteer, I have been working with the Priniatikos Pyrgos Project, exploring the history of an ancient settlement on the north-eastern shores of Crete, in the Greek Mediterranean.  Priniatikos Pyrgos is a multigenerational settlement, with a history of occupation and activity extending back over the last 5,000 years.

My job in all of this?  I am a ceramic archaeologist, and since 2012 I have spent my summers studying the pottery of the ancient Minoans during their Protopalatial Period (1900-1700 BCE).  There is a saying about ancient Greek pottery -- it's ubiquitous.  It's literally everywhere!

From its study, we can learn any number of things about its creators.  From a study of the types of pottery represented, we can see the sort of activities ancient peoples were doing: does the site have cooking pots?  How about storage vessels?  Any luxury goods? Was there a pottery workshop?  The physical make-up of a piece of pottery -- the minerals included in its construction -- can tell us where it was made and, if not local, who the Minoans of Priniatikos Pyrgos were trading with.  But wait, there's more!  Looking at the decorative style of pottery can even help us to understand the artistic values of these ancient peoples -- what was in vogue at the time, what was the latest decorative trend.

This year marks the last year of my research with the Project.  Together, these 7 years of study have helped us to explore and rediscover a lost people and ancient past.  It will be sad to say goodbye at the end of this week, but I'm sure to enjoy my time while it lasts and look forward to sharing that experience and knowledge in full in the later publication.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Curation Month: Call for Volunteers

~Ryan McHale, Head Curator

May is Curation Month at the Museum – and IVDM needs your help! Volunteers will have the chance to go behind the scenes, work directly with our staff, and get a hands on experience curating collections. You’ll be bagging, tagging, and boxing artifacts from the Childers Collections, helping to understand over 30 years of archaeology in Imperial Valley.

Morlin Childers, one of our Museum founders, worked on archaeological sites throughout the Valley from the 1950's to 1980s. His collection returned to the museum in 2015 from BLM, and we have been working on sorting and cataloguing the collection ever since. With thousands of documents and artifacts to go through, we need all the help we can get. 

Curation days will be held two days a week on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 – 4:00pm. Curation Month kicks off next Saturday May 4thand Sunday May 5th. There are spots for 10 volunteers each day and we encourage anyone ages 12 and older to come help us preserve this special part of Imperial Valley history.

Don’t worry if you can’t make May 4thor 5th. There will be more chances to come out for volunteer curation days on May 11th, 12th, 19th, 25thand 26th

Are you interested in volunteering? You can sign up by sending us an email at or giving us a call at (760)358-7016.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Slides, Books, and Geoglyphs: Celebrating the Desert Southwest

~Dr. David Breeckner, Executive Director

The deserts of the North American southwest are truly a wondrous place, abundant with life and rich in history and tradition.  Despite their harsh conditions, these deserts have been home to and supported a multitude of peoples, long before the arrival of Europeans.  The evidence of this past is still alive around us today, and is no more present than in the large works of stamped, earthen art known as geoglyphs.  Only truly appreciated when seen from above, the desert southwest is filled with these monumental works that feature everything from abstract lines and shapes to more recognizable human and animal forms.  The meaning, stories, and intent behind these amazing pieces are not known, and are not our place to speculate -- only appreciated.  

Across the second half of the 20th century, archaeologist Jay von Werlhof and Brawley native Harry Casey used a plane with underslung camera to document and preserve on film these regional treasurers.  Their work recorded hundreds of sites across a territory spanning from Yuma to across the Imperial Valley.  In 2017, Harry's collection of over 8,000 slides and photos were donated to Imperial Valley Desert Museum, where they were digitized (scanned and electronically recorded) by IVDM Curator and Archivist Anne Morgan.  

"People are always surprised when I show them photographs of the geoglyphs.  They don't think of our desert as having such incredible features.  But they are still here.  They are reminders that people have been living and thriving in our area for thousands of years and have left their stories -- whether on purpose or not -- for us today."   -Anne Morgan

This multi-month project was not only for the sake of good housekeeping: geoglyphs are indigenous, regional, and global treasures.  Our desert has the second-largest collection of them in the world, second only to the Nazca lines in Peru.  Many are thousands of years old.  The greatest threat to their continued existence is human intervention -- off-roading and deliberate vandalism.  Documenting decades of photography allows us to cleanly observe changes to sites over time, and to better respond to new and emerging threats, becoming good stewards of the Valley's past.

Now, that legacy is within reach for everyone and not just those with a plane and camera.  A new book, continuing in the traditional publications of Jay von Werlhof, is set to be released.  Combining the photos of Harry Casey and Museum's research by Anne Morgan, Geoglyphs of the Desert Southwest: Earthen Art as Viewed from Above is the next step in celebrating and promoting the protection of these rare desert wonders.  IVDM and the authors will be premiering this new book at a Book Release on Saturday, April 13 from 1pm to 3pm.  We hope you can join us!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Volunteer Days!

~Ryan McHale, Curatorial Research Fellow

It was an exciting week at the Museum, well for me anyway. This week we had a total of 17 volunteers come out over three days to help bag, tag, and box artifacts from our collections. We made good progress towards sorting through the over 100 boxes in the Childers Collection and finished 44 boxes!  

The research and collection of Morlin Childers, one of our Museum founders, is currently drawing a lot of interest from professional researchers, students, and volunteers on a local and national level. Childers worked on archaeological sites throughout the Valley from the 1950s to the 1980s. His collection returned to the museum in 2015 from BLM, and we have been working on cataloguing the documents and artifacts ever since. 

There are thousands of objects in the collection, and there’s no perceivable organization to it. That's where I come in, with the help of volunteers, to bring order to the chaos. Our volunteers get a chance to go behind the scenes and get hands on experience curating our collection.

Last Saturday was our busiest day. Ten teenage volunteers from the Imperial County Department of Probations Community Work Service Program came out to help us sort artifacts. They got really into sorting, bagging, and tagging the artifacts. At the end of the day, a few asked if they could come back out to volunteer again and some asked if the museum was hiring. Their enthusiasm and interest in the collection really made my day! 

The work we completed is extremely important to the museum’s collections and ended up being a lot of fun. We still have a lot to do, and are going to need more volunteers. 

Are you interested in volunteering? Keep an eye out for our upcoming Volunteer Days. You can get in contact with us via our email or give us a call at (760)358-7016.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Night at the Museum!

~Ryan McHale, Curatorial Research Fellow

Wow, what an exciting weekend! 23 students from Southwestern College, in Chula Vista, spent the past couple days at the Museum on a geology field trip led by Professor Carole Ziegler and her colleague Professor Bulent Bas. It was an awesome experience learning more about the geology of our desert and joining them on their desert excursions!

Arriving Friday evening, the students attended a stargazing lecture by Bradley Pickett, and afterwards, camped out at the Museum. Our Executive Director, David, spent the night at the Museum too, and brought along his husky, Brandy, who periodically checked in on the students to see how they were doing throughout the night.

After a Saturday morning lecture titled, “What?! There’s Water in the Desert!”, I joined the class on a hike to Mountain Palm Springs. For many of the students, it was their first time hiking in the desert and they were surprised to see running water and wildflowers. 
It felt surreal being surrounded by desert on all sides and relaxing in the cool shade of the palms, but this was no mirage. As you can see by the pictures, we couldn't have asked for a better day to explore!

I spent Saturday night at the Museum, and as much as I wanted it to be like the movie Night at the Museum, our exhibits didn’t come alive. We still had very lively night, and even saw a shooting star while out stargazing! Since it was such a clear night, I decided to sleep out under the stars. 

This was my first overnight at the Museum and I had an absolute blast! Every day here is an adventure, and I can't wait to see what else is in store!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Night under the Blood Moon

~David Breeckner, Executive Director

What do the moon, hot dogs, and museums have in common?  This past Sunday night, January 20, they all came together for a massive public event at Imperial Valley Desert Museum.  611 guests joined Museum staff, volunteers, and their Board of Directors for a night under the stars at its first stargazing event of the new year -- a total lunar eclipse and Blood Moon! 

It was a big night at IVDM.  The Museum hosts a number of stargazing events across the year, which are always well attended.  But the Blood Moon Eclipse was something different.  With nearly three times our usual attendance, visitors from as far away as Julian, Lakeside, and Yuma came to IVDM to relax under the night sky.  Though the weather wasn't as kind as we'd first hoped -- our evening's host, Mike Rood, did put a call into NASA to see about the cloud cover, but there was nothing that could be done!  Nevertheless, the brightness of the full moon shone through.  Despite a slight haze through the clouds themselves, the crowd still marveled as the moon slowly traveled in full into the Earth's shadow... and disappeared.

A lunar eclipse takes place when the moon passes through a part or all of the of the Earth's 2 shadows.  That's right -- 2 shadows!  The umbra and penumbra represent a range of shadows, from ones that block the full effects of the sun and are darkest -- found on the side of the Earth directly opposite the sun -- to a partial shadow that fans out from the umbra like shades of grey as portions of the solar light sneak around the sides of the planet.  What you see at an eclipse depends on these shadows -- a penumbral eclipse is subtle and hard to spot, while partial and total eclipses are visible to the naked eye.  Visitors this past Sunday were fortunate to experience all three!  These were added to by the "blood" effect of the Blood Moon, created from the tint of sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere and bathing it in a reddish-orange glow.

For many, it was their first time to the Museum.  Welcomed by the smell of cooking hot dogs and chili, and guided by a string of red rope lights, these newcomers and returning guests alike each saw and experienced something new.  From a parking lot filled to capacity, to a groundscape filled with families on blankets, lawn chairs, and canopies, the IVDM and its guests made Sunday night in Imperial Valley a signature community event of the MLK weekend.  Looking like something closer to a crowd gathered for fireworks on July 4, it was inspiring to see so many come out to enjoy and marvel at the movements of the sun and moon, and our place in the night sky.  

I'm thrilled at the way the community came together for the night.  From our great volunteers who worked over a hot grill to serve up tasty bites, to our Board members and staff who kept the night on track and everyone happy, to our Master of Ceremonies Mike Rood, and to our guests who took the time out of their evenings to spend it with us.  Together, it made for an incredible night, and a fantastic start to the Museum in the new year.  I cannot wait to see what else lies ahead.