Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Untapped: IVDM BeerFest 2021

 ~ Kayla Kirby, IVDM Education Specialist

"A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure." -- Czech proverb

Guests traveled from all over the Imperial Valley, and even San Diego County, to visit the Imperial Valley Desert Museum this past Saturday for a night of beer tasting.  Museum staff were happy to host our annual BeerFest, especially after missing out on the chance for fun last year.  

The event sponsor, Alford Distributing, donated a variety of beers, including a pumpkin porter, passion fruit kombucha, a michelada lager, a fleet of IPAs, and more.  The two favorite kinds of the night were the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Oktoberfest and the Karl Strauss Brewing Co. Boat Shoes.  

More than 80 guests sampled beer, toured the museum's exhibits, and generously participated and tried their luck with the night's raffles.  As the keystone fundraiser for IVDM in its fall season, and the seasonal alternative to the institution's spring Wine Tasting and Silent Auction, raised funds from the night offer continued support for the museum's education and curation programs.  The sounds of unleashed carbonation and the cascade of liquid hops into customized beer glasses resounded against the backdrop of classic rock blaring through the museum's exterior speakers, the ever-changing hues of LED event lighting, and the groans and cries of celebration among patrons of the night's featured horror-movie trivia game.

Despite the windy night, guests and staff had a wonderful time.  This year saw the museum move away from taps and kegs to instead offer bottle service, allowing for a greater variety of beer.  Museum staff greatly enjoyed sharing that wider range of offerings and helping guests to find their new favorite flavor and style of beer!

We hope to see you all again -- and, hopefully, many new faces as well -- for the 2022 wine tasting event.  Stay tuned for details... and happy drinking!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Picking Pigments for Pottery Painting

~ Kayla Kirby, IVDM Education Specialist

 Art is important to any civilization. Art can be used to tell stories, share information, practice religion, and much, much more. Today, we sing at concerts, host plays and dance recitals, and paint on canvas. Those who came before us, enjoyed art a little differently. Have you ever seen photos of paintings on rock faces and cave walls (pictographs)? If you’ve toured our exhibits, you’ve probably also seen some of the Kumeyaay’s painted ollas on display.

In one of our previous #TraditionalCraftDays guests used the traditional practice of coiled clay pottery making to make small bowls similar to the Kumeyaay ollas. Having dried and then fired those pots, guests were invited to return for their painting -- mixing raw, ground pigments to create paints and add color and life to their vessels!

Guests seemed to have a lot of fun choosing what pigments to use and what designs to include on their pots. Some guests created intricate designs with snakes and polka dots, while others tried their hand at abstract painting. We were even asked to mix pigments to create custom colors! After painting, guests trickled through the exhibits to learn more about the Kumeyaay and their traditions. 

Modern Pottery, Ancient Traditions

But the Kumeyaay didn’t visit their local craft store for paint or canvas like we do today. So how did they do it?

Knowledge of the local geology was key!  From the rocks and minerals of the region, new colors and slips (paints) were created.  Indigenous groups in the area made red and yellow pigment from red ochre deposits, sourcing the material from hills and red clay deposits across the state.  This ochre was then ground in sandstone or basalt mortars. Sources for red ochre were kept secret between the tribes.

For those of you whose favorite colors are more blue-green, well guess what, indigenous groups knew how to make those colors too! Blue pigment was commonly made from blue azurite, and green was made from green malachite. However, blue azurite tends to become malachite overtime, meaning some of the blue azurite paint could have turned green over long periods of time.

With the exception of a few indigenous groups, black was typically made from charcoal. It is noted that some groups believed charcoal from ash trees and oak bark were the best for making black pigment. Can you take a guess how white pigment could’ve been made? White pigment was usually made from burnt and pulverized seashells.

Even though we did not search for our own red ochre deposit, harvest the red ochre, and then grind it into a powder-like substance, we sure did have a ton of fun sharing this knowledge with the community during our first pottery painting #TraditionalCraftDays.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A New Donation promises SIdewalk Astronomy at IVDM

~ Michael Rood, Amateur Astronomer & IVDM Volunteer

The desert’s night sky has been a focus for Indigenous Folklore, Greek Mythology, and just good nighttime entertainment for people throughout human history. It only takes one visit to Ocotillo and the Imperial Valley Desert Museum during one of its Stargazing nights to appreciate how impressive the desert nighttime sky can be. Children and adults all stare with wonder into the universe; they may be listening to cultural stories of old, imagining pictures made by stars, or listening to astronomy science, but it is always a relaxing and enjoyable experience. The desert’s nighttime sky is the window through which anyone can view the universe.

Recently, through the diligent efforts of Executive Director, Dr. David Breeckner, the Imperial Valley Desert Museum has received the donation of a 30 inch Dobsonian telescope.  This telescope is huge, standing at nearly 10 ft in height!  Amateur astronomers are usually very satisfied with the results of six to ten inch telescopes.  A 30 inch mirror telescope is simply incredible and could take astronomy nights at the museum to a new level.

A Dobsonian telescope is an altazimuth-mounted Newtonian telescope popularized by John Dobson in 1965. The design is optimized for observing faint, deep-sky objects such as nebulae and galaxies. Dobson built telescopes through his hobby of instructional “sidewalk astronomy.” He set up his telescopes on sidewalks in San Francisco for any passerby to view for free. He took satisfaction in connecting people caught up in their busy urban lives to wonders of the universe. He is credited with being the originator and promoter of the design of large Dobsonian telescopes that revolutionized telescopes available to the amateur astronomer.

What does IVDM have planned with this new telescope? Dr. Breeckner is researching possible grants and additional donations that could assist in building a structure for housing this telescope at the museum, providing it a forever home where Dobson's tradition of “sidewalk astronomy” can be continued.

Any ideas for this next step would be appreciated. For any interested parties, remember that the Imperial Valley Desert Museum is owned and operated by the Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society, Inc. which is a non-profit 501(C)(3) qualified corporation that can provide tax credits and related tax benefits to donors.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Museum Staff Working from Home During COVID-19

Museum Staff Working from Home

Here at Imperial Valley Desert Museum, its Education staff have been hard at work to redefine what it means to be community leaders8 and educators in the time of social distancing and COVID-19.

IVDM closed its doors to the public on Friday, March 20. That same day, it transitioned all of its staff to a work-at-home environment. Their new mission? Find new ways to engage our audiences virtually and share the history, heritage, and science of our deserts from the safety of home. Just because its building is closed does not mean the same for the museum itself.

As the Education Coordinator I am grateful for what the museum and board is currently doing for us by allowing us the privilege of working from home. As this pandemic continues, a lot of people have lost their jobs, or are currently working jobs that put them in danger every single day; my utmost respect and appreciation goes to these essential workers.

Curriculum Development

One of the greatest challenges facing educators right now is the transition to an online classroom. Every day, these teachers are reinventing education in this country. They are hungry for new, trustworthy content to share with their students. The Education Staff and I are currently working to answer this need: developing new online virtual curriculum and revising current curriculum for the next season of field trips and education programs.

We are utilizing this time to create online content and lessons to provide support for teachers and students during this time. We are also making sure the existing education material reflects the most updated and current version of California State Standards.

How does the Education Staff feel about working from home?

The Education Staff shared some insight on what their experience working from home has been like:

Cory Fitzsimmons
Working from home has been a great experience overall. As a prospective teacher, I see that it's really valuable to be able to create online educational material.

                                      Luis Landeros
I have been learning so many new things either from doing research or writing outlines and scripts, which I never thought this was something I would get to do! It is such a different experience and working from home is what is needed in such hard times so it is what we will keep doing to help the museum keep moving forward!

                                        Charles Kirby
Of course, I would prefer being all together, but I feel everyone is just as committed to getting the work done. I also feel that my colleagues and supervisors are always available if needed and have been super willing to work with me if I have any issues or concerns.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Ocotillo Blooms 2020!

Each spring, the desert comes alive as the wildflowers bloom and transform the Yuha Desert into a colorful canvas, and the best place to celebrate this is at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum!

On Sunday, February 23, the IVDM hosted its 2nd Annual Ocotillo Blooms! – a community based event designed for families and children to come out to the Museum and celebrate wildflowers blooming in our desert and learn the many values of native plants.

This year we had 170 attendees, many of them being families with young children. The event included food,music, vendors, painting, a water color activity, scavenger hunt, desert biome lecture, and butterfly release. We were able to release 100 painted butterflies into our desert!

Our vendors included, Vince & Victor Zazueta, who were set up with a compost station, and natural products for sampling and purchasing. Some of the items available were loofahs, seeds, and fresh homemade lemonade! Imperial County Behavioral Health Services Positive Engagement Team (P.E.T.) provided a booth with their therapy dog, Bo, who made many friends including our resident tortoise Speedy! Loko Bean Cafe's coffee cart had many refreshing drinks to offer like Italian soda, iced coffee, and chamangos, as well as cotton candy.

It was a beautiful day in the desert to celebrate the yearly phenomenon known as the desert bloom. A desert bloom occurs when enough rainfall penetrates dormant seeds and causes them to grow quickly before desert conditions cause them to dry out again. We received a small wave of rainfall two weeks prior to the event, which caused the brittlebush, Ocotillo, and creosote to thrive surrounding the museum. We look forward to what it's in store for us next year!
Thank you to our sponsors El Centro Costco, the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, participants, vendors, staff, and volunteers for making this event possible!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Meet and Greet! IVDM visits the San Diego County Archive

~ Kristin O'Lear, Curatorial Research Fellow

The staff here at IVDM has been on the go-go-go! This past week I was fortunate enough to be invited to a behind-the-scenes tour of the new San Diego County Archives before they open to public on Monday February 3, 2020.

Here at IVDM we understand just how important a facility designed for preservation is! About to undergo our own renovation of collection spaces here at the Museum, the sneak-peek of the new archives facility was an opportunity for me to meet and network with other institutions in the greater San Diego area. This allowed for me as acting curator to learn about collection management policies utilized at other institutions and steps they have taken to ensure the preservation of their collections for future research and use. 

From a collections perspective, the building is a Curator's dream! The space dedicated to archival material is roughly 5000 square feet and built with the intention to grow as San Diego County (SDC) grows, setting aside space for approximately 50 years of SDC records in addition to the archival collection that is currently being housed off-site!  The building also provides a spacious reading room that allows multiple researchers to utilize the space at one time.

Although IVDM is a smaller institution and our collection needs differ than those of SDC, the preview of the new archives facility reinforces our commitment to the highest standard of care for our collections. As a curator, it makes me more conscious of IVDM's needs as a smaller museum to make sure we take the best possible care to preserve our history!

Stay tuned for future posts as we begin our renovation project in March! We can't wait to show you what we have in store(age)!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Life Along the Border: A Local Perspective Reflects on a National Conversation

~ Kristin O'Lear, Curatorial Research Fellow

As temperatures in the desert begin to cool down, things are heating up at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum!

We just opened our new temporary exhibit Life Along The Border, featuring the photography of local artist and photojournalist, Jimmy Dorantes.  Growing up along the border in Calexico, CA, Mr. Dorantes captured the reality of what was going on, literally, in his own front yard. Mr. Dorantes' work has been featured across national news outlets such as the Associated Press and Time magazine, as well as partnered with major institutions such as the Smithsonian Institute. We are excited for our partnership with Mr. Dorantes and proud to showcase five decades of his work. 

Since my arrival in the desert two months ago,  Life Along The Border has been my labor of love. It's not very often during exhibit development one gets the opportunity to work with the artist whose photography is at the center of the exhibit, but that's exactly what I've been fortunate enough to experience. Mr. Dorantes worked closely during the exhibition's development, lending his expertise and perspective. Working with him has been a real highlight during my time at the Museum so far. Growing up primarily on the East Coast, discussion of the border/border wall has always been abstract and distant.  Conducting research for this exhibit, especially from a local perspective, has shown me just how complex the border, border wall, and the people living along it, actually is.
With this exhibit, IVDM is venturing into new territory. The exhibit will be open until March 1, 2020 and will then travel across the United States, becoming the first exhibit developed and curated by IVDM that will travel nationally and bring a local perspective to a national conversation. We at the Museum encourage you to take time to come and see the exhibit before its whisked away!