Winter is the New Desert

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I forgot the world could get so cold. I assess: fingers unpleasantly tingling, but core body temperature stable. It’s 25 degrees, but I’ll survive. This time around, winter doesn’t seem so bad. Must be a desert thing.

Book Review: The Non-Profit Strategy Revolution

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The Non-Profit Strategy Revolution by David La Piana essentially boils down to the title of the last chapter “Real Time Strategy in a rapid response world”. La Piana asserts that the problem with strategic plans is that they rarely engage people in the process of strategy, and as a result, strategy fails to become action.

This is a book with a purpose. The author suggests developing an in depth understanding of mission and an environment focused on continuous evaluation. By empowering board and staff to evaluate the cause and effect of their actions against the goals of the strategic plan, the strategic planning document ceases to be the end goal and becomes a living component of the organization.

…and I really like one of the quotes: “leaders don’t make followers, they make more leaders.”

Find more information at http://www.fieldstonealliance.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=152

Cultural Heritage Symposium

My friends from CDAS made me an honorary member of the Society and arranged for me to attend this weekend’s symposium in Borrego Springs.

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All the local experts are represented and its hard to believe that after two years of networking I’m leaving some very good friends and passionate supporters of native landscapes and voice.

The Answer is Always Yes

Don’t spend too much time questioning an action. If it fits the mission: do it. And have fun while your at it.  You never know what will work, what won’t, and what will take you to a whole new level. The creators of the Youtube sensation What Does the Fox Say, in attempting to make the worst video ever, have been sky-rocketed to international stardom.


The Norwegian comedians have infused a sense of play into million of lives with one 3 minute video. And it spread.

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2013’s most popular middle school teacher ever, Imperial County, CA.

Last Good Hike

Today was one of my last hiking days and it was a good one. A friend decided to show off a Jacumba resident’s straw bale hauls – one of my favorite towns up the grade to the west of Imperial County. Staying at the haus over the weekend was a couple who run a farm on a Pima Arizona reservation. They showed us around the property – completely off the grid and 5 structures that serve as the main house, generator room, guest house, outhouse, and amphitheater and then explained their own new product. They are bring the ancient beans (bahf) used by the Huhukam back to the American diet. I’m trying the delicious sounding wheat berry salad for dinner tonight.

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Ramona Farms has been working with Wholefoods since March on a plan to go regional. Very exciting for them and a timely conversation since the museum is doing an exhibit on Native American Foodways in May 2014.

Then we were off to Meyers Valley for a fantastically leisurely hike over the impressive boulders of the Jacumba wilderness. Don’t you just love the thrill of hanging from two fingers and reaching for the next hold. Riveting.

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This, of course, all on the back of a weekend spent getting acquainted with the Laguna Moutains in Cleveland National Forest, which seems to me one of the few places in the world you can look down from an alpine forest onto a desert that I sometimes call home.

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Above: A meadow valley by the currently dry Big Laguna Lake, tons of ceramic scatter by the edges… wouldn’t you want that view as you prepared tonight’s meal? Incredible. And home of my very good friends, the Lucas’, the last members of the Kwaaymii band of Kumeyaay. After the last two years of talking about Tom Lucas’ contribution to preserving the family culture, it felt like a little bit of a pilgrimage to actually see what we’ve been discussing.

Recognized Professionalization

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This year I coordinated the Core Documents Program at the IVDM, which involved revising the Museum’s Collections Management Plan, Emergency Management Plan, Ethics Policy, and Institutional Plan to meet the standards set by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). These documents passed the Core Document Review earlier this month, which is the first step of Accreditation through AAM. As part of the program, I coordinated two museum assessments that evaluated the Museum’s operation, documentation, and collections stewardship. The Museum Assessment Program, a program of AAM, and the Conservation Assessment Program, a program of Heritage Preservation, are two national standards programs funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services that provide review by a specialist knowledgeable in best practice and national museum standards.

The MAP helps small and mid-sized museums strengthen operations, plan for the future and meet national standards through self-study and a site visit from a peer reviewer. The MAP hails itself as a “self-motivated program” and I took full advantage. The first six months of this year were devoted to evaluating and re-evaluating our core documents (as defined by AAM’s Core Docu

An aspect of the MAP program is to provide your reviewer with a copy of documents, should your institution have them. As a new institution, this was a good opportunity to broaden our paper trail. I documented many of the policies and procedures we already follow in 10 new documents that guide everything from lab procedures to human resources. They are intended to provide tools with which the Museum can relay our goals and values to the community.ments Verification Program). This was rewarded with extremely supportive comments by our peer reviewer, who said our Collections Management Policy was a “model, excellent policy” and our Emergency Plan was the most thorough he’d ever seen.

The MAP final report recognizes “The Museum is in the midst of professionalizing. It has many strengths, including a very knowledgeable, dedicated, energetic, professional staff …”

During the CAP, we evaluated our conservation procedures with the assistance of Dr. Nancy Odegaard, Arizona State Museum’s Lead Conservator and Head of the Preservation Department – a leader in the field. My specialty is in archives and so the discussions with Nancy were invaluable for moving the archaeology conservation lab toward the highest regional standard.

Today the staff tested one of the recommendations Dr. Odegaard made during her visit in September, I described how we accession items into the museum – using B-72 reversible adhesive and writing numbers to identify the objects – pretty standard procedure. Nancy suggested we type the numbers rather than write them – eliminating the age old museum problem of deciphering handwriting and reading tiny little numbers. A simple but elegant solution. The CAP final report is expected by March 2014.

Hiking Pilot Program

The IVDM is recognized for its advocation of hiking. What we are known as is the “museum that  does the hiking”, and ironically enough, we don’t actually lead hikes, just provide a resource from our website that points people in the right direction.

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Except I do a lot of hiking.



This summer seemed long. I’d gotten used to being in the desert every week and the 120 degree days and our Museum assessments didn’t agree with that schedule. As soon as the weather turned I was testing my new hiking boots, arranged a CPR/First Aid training day, and planning once a week hikes on our days off.

It’s been great.

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Valley of the Moon, Jacumba Mtns.

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Bow Willow to Rock House Canyon, Anza Borrego State Park

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History on the Go!, Algodones Dunes

 

Article Review: The Art and Science of Engagement

AAM-Magnetic-Cover-FINALAn excerpt of The Art and Science of Engagement in the September/October 2013 issue of AAM’s Museum is a crystal clear explanation of the habits of “magnetic museums”. The authors define magnetic museums as “those that have developed an energized core centered on people, vision, and service, which enables them to attract and retain critical resources, such as talented and committed employees, loyal audiences, engaged donors, powerful goodwill from the community at large, and the financial capital required to sustain programmatic excellence and growth.” The themes the authors outline will be familiar to professionals who work on board and/or staff development, or community engagement.

The authors share examples of successful organizations that:

1)   Have a shared vision of staff and board

2)   Empower others through “people first, service first” philosophy

3)   Build community partnerships to “widen the circle of engagement”

4)   Become essential. (I love this one. I often tell a story of how in Imperial County, our new museum is a non-profit in a region where the Food Bank partners with schools to provide a lunch room that accepts food stamps. It brings into stark relief that a non-profit must make an impact that compares to feeding our students.)

5)   Perform with excellence (Another great one. Someone once said “the number one thing we do at this museum is engage the visitor.” Everyone we encounter has to have an experience that makes them want to come back. Every. Time.

As soon as I saw it, I immediately wanted to print a large format copy of the diagram of 360 degrees engagement and post it on the IVDM lab wall. The linked target symbol is a perfect, simple visual aid to grasp how engagement at all levels ties into the success of our organization. Judging a book by its excerpt, Bergeron and Tuttle book’s a perfect reference for museum professionals seeking to vocalize the elements that make museums relevant and essential to stakeholders.

Find more about Magnetic Museums on the book’s website: http://magneticmuseums.com/

Kumeyaay College

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Tool Time with Stan, Kumeyaay College

This summer my friend and teacher Stan “politely” invited me to attend his tool making class…. 5 times. Tool Time with Stan, he calls it, “get out of the desert, catch some cool air.” I believe he was genuine in his invitation, but he was pretty insistent and I’m pretty sure a request from Stan isn’t really a request. Stan and his wife Martha are a sturdy link between the Kumeyaay crafters & speakers who are divided by the US-Mexico border. When the borderline was drawn, families were cut in half.

The president of the Museum Board and myself dutifully attended Tool Time with Stan at Kumeyaay College and learned how to wo-choo (make) a house by securing cattails to a frame with toe-nap (string). Of course all the of the hunting stick and projectile point making classes happened while I was back East on vacation, but I’ve induced a promise to do a similar program at the museum.

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@ the Milkway geoglyph

One of my other very good friends, Steve, says about the trails and geoglyphs, “you have to use them or they become lost – the desert takes them back”. I ponder this often and I try to see the story from their view: Stan, who teaches cultural traditional and language to all, and Steve, who walks the old trails. A message we hear from our friends, and repeat at the museum is, “It’s not about ‘what they did back then.’ We are still here. We do these things today.” This is the most important theme that guides the planning of our first permanent exhibit. It’s a tricky line to walk to focus museum-people on the present and future. It’s new. It’s very exciting.

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Steve’s geoglyph tour, Yuha Mesa

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Stan @ Obsidian Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Basketry Workshop, Kumiai Community Museum, Tecate, Mexico

Madrecitas: Exposicion de Pequeno Formato

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 12.57.36 PMThe Museum has hosted it’s first all-Spanish exhibit, an art exhibit from Mexicali, Mexico. This is the first ever United States exhibition, making it now an international exhibit. The organizers of the exhibit are artists themselves and drivers of the artist community. They started this small format exhibit to provide an opportunity for their students to gain exhibit experience. Now, five years later, the blossoming students of CETYS Universidad are joined by artists ranging from Southern California to Mexico City and as far as Spain.

Based in a hallway of CETYS Universidad, the inaugural exhibit had 60 pieces. In 2013 the exhibit boasts 300 pieces (which I hung with an student curator – took 3 days) from artists ranging from Southern California to Mexico City and includes 2D, 3D and video format. The exhibit represents the vibrant artistic community just across the border.

This is one of the best events we have done at the museum. It engaged a new audience, had an amazing energy level, and epitomized the type of dialogue I want to encourage at this museum. I’m very proud of this one.