Tag Archives: Fun

Off Duty…

… or not. Just this week I explained to a Board member that you are never “off” on this job. You are always building partnerships and relationships, and proliferating and promoting the Museum’s mission.


But there are no rules as to where all this work takes place. You can promote the museum and propagate the mission at house warming parties, which is where Jenica and I headed to on Superbowl weekend. Natalie (former BLM intern who worked at the museum with us)’s family had moved across town in Garden Grove, in the greater LA area. On the drive up the exit signs started to elicit a lot of “LONG BEACH, THE Long Beach?!” from my side of the car.


That weekend, I made the two girls take me to a beach – Huntington Beach – so I could experience California beaches (which were a lot like NJ beaches, but with palm trees and stronger waves) and stick my toes in the ocean. I’ve officially gone coast to coast.


Huntington Beach, CA


Location, Location, Location.


Taking similar advantage of our surroundings on our staff trips to Balboa Park we’ve been learning the history and exploring the buildings. Balboa Park, a 1,200 acre public park, was the home of the 1915 Panama Exhibition (kind of like the World’s Fairs, but celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal). The Exhibition building are now museums, and what exquisitely housed museums they are:


Botanical Gardens, Balboa Park


The Botanical Gardens was this week’s bonus. I think I love that building. Reminds me of the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston (did I ever tell you how I gave tours there at the After Hours event every Third Thursday? I’m pushing for a similar event at the IVDM. I can see it now….Ocotillo blossom champagne cocktails…)


Orchid Display, Botanical Gardens



Another fun detour happened while attending meetings in town and stopped for groceries on the way back to remote Ocotillo. In the Walmart parking lot there was a very conspicuous van on which was written “No cash, food and clothing only”. Having just purchased several bags of crazy discounted chips, I went over to share some with the van inhabitants. Their journey started in Texas and they now ride coast to coast picking up anyone who needs a hand. There are ‘only’ four people living there now, I was told. Can you imagine the relief it must be to be offered a proper meal and place to stay while you are down on your luck? It’s an interesting envelop, but I can respect the work they are doing.


Any one who donates, gets to write on the bus:


Researching Exhibits in San Diego

I’ve been told that you don’t want to reveal half-done projects to public eyes.


“People don’t see possibilities, they only see disappointment compared to their expectations.”


So I will ask the reader to see the possibilities. Look beyond the empty exhibit room, half built laboratory, and shell of a library to envision a stimulating, fun, technology-focused museum. The more we plan and share the vision, the more excited the staff gets. It’s a process that I can’t help sharing and, I promise, we’ll meet your expectations.


This month the IVDM is celebrating museum month by visiting San Diego museums with the goal to research exhibits and evaluate what type of displays are feasible and applicable to our collections.


Last week was a great success when we visited the San Diego Natural History Museum and talked to a curatorial assistant who offered a candid opinion on their popular exhibits.


The most telling thermometer for successful exhibits at ‘The Nat’ was in watching the kids. A cylinder intended to show how archeologists sift sand to find artifacts was reappropriated by younger visitors as a really fun moving part:

Repurposing archeology exhibits till they meet age-appropriate criteria for fun, San Diego Natural History Museum.


Back at the museum construction on our first temporary exhibits has begun.


Building the first exhibits after 37 years of dedicated fundraising for the new museum.


It is the beginning of the new Imperial Valley Desert Museum’s public face.


Desert Garden

Harvesting wild Ocotillo blossoms.

Jenica, my colleague here at the museum who specializes in archeology, and I will eventually move to the Museum owned trailers… as soon as they are inhabitable.

We are planning an ethnobotanical garden as our pet project for the new trailers. We have done a bit of prep work, looking up native plants, taking walks to test our identification skills, and hypothosizing about what we might use: No, we are not going to grind flour from seeds, yes we will use desert sage, and we might make mormon tea – but not too much, it can cause temporary bowel problems.


Today we scouted out plants native that grow naturally on the museum property to transplant near the trailers. We couldn’t resist harvesting some Ocotillo blossoms, which are supposed to make a “cool summer drink” when you soak them in water.


After an afternoon of traipsing around the desert, roasting in the 76 degree dry winter sun, in the relative safety of the Museum’s shadow where we didn’t have to worry about getting lost or running out of water, Jenica announced,


“Ocotillo is so much cooler than El Centro!”


“Oh yes,” I thought, “I’ve found another Grand Turk person.”




Gearing up 2012: Library and “Fort Yuma”

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the museum last week was the shelves are up in the conservation room.


The second thing I noticed was:

"Fort Yuma" out of lab packaging. Complete with the general's conference room (table and chairs) at the end of the tunnel.


The boxes that the conservation lab furniture arrived in was imaginatively repurposed into a fort loosely inspired by Fort Yuma. The director’s children often keep him company on his weekend work. Their parental dedication is awarded by the freedom to play. It is this spirit that inspires a lot of our programming. I’m fine with this. If you work 60 hours a week, the Saturday program might as well be fun.


And this week it’s a good one. Saturday, we’ll be making ceramic pottery with the traditional coil clay methods used by the local tribes, followed by an evening star gazing event. The folks in the Valley seem really excited to have the museum up and running. Someone’s child brought a flyer home from school about the event and no one at the museum knows who made them, how many were distributed, or how many people to expect tomorrow. Personally, I think it’s a good sign of the local support for the museum.


We spent the day getting our house in order for an unanticipated amount of visitors.


The other day we broke Fort Yuma down to use the cardboard to envision our new exhibit space. Today it was all swept away to portray a more professional front. We also got the library in order (it was a task that has to be completed anyway to host the county library’s Ocotillo program at the end of February.)

The state of the library noon yesterday:


Jenica surveying the collection. Not everything in the card catalog is in the boxes.


The books are not actually a part of our library, they belonged to the college. But they were in the WAY of our new library space.


Saturday will be a long one, but it is a new year for the museum and we are all determined to see another successful programming year.

Gone Shootin’

I’ve been back in Ocotillo for 4 days.


Day 1: Catch up day. We had a monday meeting to go over the priorities. It was a bit of a walk to get to the meeting room:


But worth the amenities:

Monday Meeting

Monday Meeting 2

Coffee Anyone?

Day 2: IMLS funded California Connecting to Collections (C3) preservation grant funding workshop. Consensus view: our 6 week workshop holds it’s own against C3’s nationally funded state program.


Group Photo

Balboa Park, San Diego

Day 3: Surveyed and processed the Museum Society’s records. Discovered that updated copy of the By Laws. And a mouse skeleton.


You don’t need to see that picture.


Today, Saturday, I went shooting for the first time, even though it was high winds. I was nervous about this, but told that we wouldn’t be shooting at any distance where bullets could stray, it would just be a challenge aiming at the target.

I was fine holding the empty gun, but once that baby had bullets in it I treated it with kid gloves. Loaded guns are scary. We shot a .22 and a .537. I liked the .537. It kicked.

Unloaded .22

We did target practice with the .22 and I managed to hit where I aimed a few times… at 10 feet. I backed up to give myself more of a challenge (15ft) and shot a bit wide, but come on… 25-35mph winds. I was getting blown around like a tumble weed.

Two perfect bulls-eyes, three slightly less so.

As Day 5 approaches you can’t help but wonder what’s next. Actually, I know what’s next because we’ve reviewed the priorities, it’s just a matter of getting it done.

San Diego Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum

On the way out of town (I took a red eye) we stopped by the Maritime Museum to waste a few hours.


See here the Indian Star and a USSR submarine in the same shot. Pretty neat. I also spent a lot of time  in the private Gauguin exhibit trying to decipher the french of Le Sourire with the gallery attendant.


We also saw the ship featured in Master and Commander. AND a replica of a ship built around the time of the Harold. Basically it was a “look, that’s the type of anchor outside the TCMN” type of trip.


Duplicate of Harold

Pretty close to Harold


It seems like all I can talk about is the Turks and Caicos, but give me a break… beach front property! When will that ever happen again, I ask you? Anyway, it was a good day in San Diego before flying home.


Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Last Sunday we visited Indian Point in Anza-Borrego State Park, the largest state park in the country: 60,000 acres.

Indian Point Hill

Indian Point


This hill was inhabited for 4,000 years.

Under the ledge

Under the ledge (just visible in the above picture)


You can see where people made paints and food.

Food and paint production area. Deep = food, shallow = paint.

There were obvious trails weaving in and out of the rocks, though now they are over grown by bushes. I have the scratches to prove it.


The desert is really beautiful up here. It’s a higher elevation than Ocotillo and it gets visibly more lush and green as you enter the park.

AB State Park view

Ocotillo in Bloom

Ocotillo in Bloom



I also felt like we could act out 3:10 to Yuma.


This week I experienced Rotary. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I felt a little guilty even having that thought until someone seated at my lunch table confessed she thought it was the most boring thing when she started coming as a guest years ago. Then she got involved in the Stars program, which mentors youth into becoming leaders from a young age. Lesson: a thing is what you make it.

Personally, I enjoyed the meeting’s speaker. She works for the city council and explained how the Imperial Valley is trying to persuade the Navy to house their new F35C planes at the local NAF. The F35C’s will replace the F18 hornets, a program is set to retire in 2025. It was interesting to hear about the county statistics. The Navy puts about 1 million dollars into the community and bringing the new planes here will open thousands of jobs. I found this to be an amazingly small number. The museum has an agenda to work job creation into every project, and it’s a concept that’s easy to get behind, but it’s a whole other story finding out why it’s such a strongly held goal.

“This was used on a mastodon!”

We are leading volunteer days to re-label the collections the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) interns have finished re-curating. It’s the stuff of volunteer dreams: the true behind scenes of archeology… read the label number in the artifact bag, find the new printed label, replace the old label with the new archival quality one, pick up a new artifact, repeat. Yes, after 3 hours we were all practically walking on a cloud.


I jest, but really, the work we completed was incredibly important to the museum collections and really a lot of fun. Any history lover will see through these mundane tasks and recognize the volunteer days for their true value: as a rare opportunity to have the museum’s treasures explained by passionate experts. Whenever someone found an interesting looking artifact, we’d all stop and speculate and oo and ahh over its possible purpose.

One artifact in particular caught my fancy:

When this projectile point was first pointed out as a ‘neat’ find, I sat looking at the size, going through my mental encyclopedia of desert animals, wondering what kind of arrow would have to be attached to such a big point! What kind of animal would be big enough to merit such a hefty tool? Coyote, maybe? Finally, coming up short, I jokingly said, “What’s so big out here? Saber tooth tiger?” And with a dead straight face the staff responded, “Mastodon, properly.”

Oh. Well ok then.

When I informed the BLM archeology staff I was going to proclaim that this atlatl point was used to kill a mastodon, they quickly shot me the archeologist mantra: “You can’t say that, we don’t know that for sure.” Yes, yes of course that’s true, but it’s pretty cool that it might have been used to bring down a mighty mastodon. It’s always amazing to think that a hunter some 10,000 years ago could have used the artifact in my hand to feed his family. Talk about bringing home the bacon!

Desert life


This sustainability thing is pretty cool. I’m doing laundry today and suddenly the ground by the fence started gurgling. I wasn’t really surprised to realize that the run off from the laundry is piped along the yard and released strategically to water the garden. This recycling of grey water is routinely used in the Turks and Caicos and Australia, but I suddenly wondered how many people in, say, New York were aware of this type of life style.