Tag Archives: programming

New England Archivists Conference

Two really great sessions amidst a flurry of networking:

1) International colleagues representing the International Conference on Archives and their respective countries. Switzerland just passed a law that will help support “dangerous records” from being destroyed in their country of origin. All of Germany’s archivists study at the same school. Canada’s national archives associations are advocating for archives to be treated as not just important for future generations, but for building identity today. Israel’s official documents are processed into the archive within 3 years, decreasing the chance of losing important context information. The Netherlands are working on a national electronic depository. Norway is championing the combination of records management and archival techniques to smooth the transition of active records to archives.

2) College and High School Outreach programs: Colby-Sawyer and MYTOWN
both projects had student presenters participate in the session

A) COLBY-SAWYER COURSES, Kelli Bogan archivist
1) Rebuild college history (last history researched in 1937 for centennial)
2) Train researchers (current students) in using archival material

Class structure: Two seminar classes Junior then Senior year.
Year one
“History Detectives 101” Prof Randy Hanson: Process a small collection, intro to archives/information literacy
Year two
Research projects: 1) Create Virtual Exhibit 2) Simultaneous Oral History project Includes: in-class practice with a former CS college professor (80 years old and encouraging kids to ask follow-up questions); Group projects developing 15 min oral history interviews, used on Alumni weekend to gather information (called “guerilla interviews”)

Student Evaluation:

  • The Student presenters stressed they gained
  • Connection to college (even students not interested in archives)
  • Practical Research skills
  • Student expectations and interest is low at the start of the course, but grows with “touching” archives (in experiencing firsthand sources and in developing historical narratives)

NOTE: Alumni weekend materials contained information about project with a note that they should expect to be approached by students with buttons; permissions signed before interviews

a 501(c)3 with the mission to connect students to Boston’s contemporary history: Hires high school students to learn about Boston, their hometown, and give history tours to public (paid tours). In 15 years of operation they amassed an archive of youth-authored materials. Future organizational goals – Current students teach next generation

NOTE: people interested in taking the tours from students generally already have some knowledge or interest in the subjects, forcing students to have deep knowledge

Student job description:
1) review, research, and share MYTOWN archives
2) develop a research question/ revive tours
3) document your family history
4) keep a daily blog of your research, tours, and photos

Example Subjects: bussing in boston (ending school segregation), Mel King (former major); Puerto Rican neighborhood Villa Victoria (resisted urban expansion)

Student evaluations: I learned the…
– ability to master a subject
– confidence, speaking skills, communication
– patience/flexibility in working with existing historical information
– empathy with other points of view
– “never stop asking questions”/love of learning
– develop your own opinion and be an advocate for that point of view (critical thinking/story development)
– glad to have an opportunity to learn local history

– formed institutional loyalty (future MYTOWN employees and advocates)
– forms socially responsible, thoughtful citizens with a life-long love of learning

Program structure:
– found an interesting item in the collections
– developed a research question
– archive research was followed with visits to locations relevant to the work
– researched subject outside archive by partnering with three university archives/libraries
– developed an online exhibit
– including an audio file where the student “speaks” as an inanimate object present at the event ie. A pen: “Mel King gripped the pen with frustration” (a school building in Bussing Boston, the ground at the Villa)

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.


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

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.

Screen shot 2013-10-15 at 10.57.45 PM

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.


Valley of the Moon, Jacumba Mtns.


Bow Willow to Rock House Canyon, Anza Borrego State Park


History on the Go!, Algodones Dunes


Pilot Program: Sunset Photography 101

The series of members-only events we’ve been holding at the museum have been very effective in developing programs. And I can’t help but adding – really, really fun. The intimate nature of the events attracts those truly interested experiencing something new, and for those people we will pilot any program they wish.

This week we are interested in celebrating the desert through photography. I’ve always wanted to test out that mysterious P setting on my own little point-and-click. The volunteer who led our elite group through the camera basics implied something I’d never thought of: once you know how the “cloudy” setting manupulates the camera, you can use it anyway you want.

The last couple of days have been an extended trial-and-error session since Saturday’s photography event. I have two goals: capturing colors and telling a story in one shot.







Film Forward sparks dialogue…again

Earlier this year the Imperial County Film Commissioner’s Office brought the Sundance Institute’sFilm Forward Program to the Valley. We were invited to participate in a continuation of that program through a Google Hangout.

Last Saturday at the 3,000 artifacts event, we screened “Somewhere Between” a film about several young woman who were adopted from China into American families and their struggle for identity. This morning, we joined participants from across the country and internationally to compare and discuss the reaction of our communities with each other and the film’s director.
I watched the film apart from our group of participants, and I have to say I’m glad I did. I almost the exact opposite reaction as this group of college-aged students raised in a border culture. I thought of my very good friend who was adopted into a white family in a white dominated area and mourned. But even my friend’s experiences were different than those in the documentary – that is to say, American families aren’t in the habit of flying to China yearly. In the film, one of the girls’ families flew 4 people over to meet her birth family – as completely unthinkable in Imperial County as it is in middle Pennsylvania.
And Imperial County had no sympathy. The IVC student participants, one can generalize, are accustomed to differences. Even within their small group one person was the only Columbian in the room, another was the only white person. These young adopted Chinese women should not be so worried about their differences to from the world around them. They should find their self-worth in themselves and the people who love them. Thus concluded the group who are accustomed to being “different”.
The hangout discussion lead by the Film Forward monitors focused less on the film and more on the personal stories of the girls. The participants from Arizona State University included an adopted student who was born in China and was willing to share her experiences. Our group was extremely engaged in the discussion with her and her personal comments on whether her own journey to find identity was found inside or outside her physical appearance.
I absolutely love the Film Forward program and I love holding it at the museum. The students were enthusiastic and engaged with other students who were enthusiastic and engaged. It sparks conversations and broadens viewpoints for all involved. It was fantastic to watch; and to be a part of. After the discussion digitally concluded, we screened the film a second time and the lively conversation continued into the afternoon.

3,000 Artifacts in a Day event

Twenty-four volunteers helped curate 1,908 artifacts.

Saturday the museum held a 14-hour, 3,000 Artifacts in a Day event: 10am – midnight. Twenty four volunteers made good headway toward the ambitious goal, contributing over a hundred hours combined.  People actually started working around 9:00am and came throughout the day. At the end of the day, around 8pm, a  group of IVC students arrived and gave the event a second wind. We worked through the night.

Normally our volunteers complete 600 artifacts in a week, so trying to re-curate 3,000 in one day was a large goal. In the end about 1,900 artifacts were moved from temporary storage into permanent storage.

Imperial Valley College students curated through the night.

Some of the archaeologists who originally collected the artifacts were on hand to talk about the significance of the collections and their experience in the field. Volunteers were also invited on tours of the collection rooms, where they received a behind the scenes look at the process of starting a new museum. 

One of our volunteers, a new curator, saw a sign posted on the wall that the most someone had curated in a day was 161 artifacts. Intending to stay from 10:30am-2pm, he actually worked until 7pm to beat that number. “I was late,” he said, “I came at 10:30. I had to put in my time.” When he left, we tallied up his total: 181 artifacts.

At the very end of the evening, we screened the movie “Somewhere Between” as part of the Sundance Institute, and their partners, Film Forward program. The documentary records the life experience of 7 young girls who were adopted into American families from Asia. I continued to lead the curation, but I heard some stimulating conversation going on during the movie. Curation and movie = success.

Intern Program Begins

We picked up our new staff member and our board member insisted we make a small pit stop so that I could see La Jolla Cove. We stopped at the Children’s Pool, a protected cove where the kids and the seals play together on the beach.




Anne has arrived to complete a project to survey the museum archive and establish system by which the papers are digitally linked to the artifact collection through the Past Perfect database. Anne is a recent graduate of Simmons and was at the SAA conference looking for the next step. You can’t get work like this many other places, I told her, you’d better come on out.

One of my goals here is to give professional opportunities that interns can’t receive anywhere else. I want to help them develop programs that showcase their skills. I want them to be able to package themselves so that when they move on to the next place, they can excel. I want them to interact with the youth of the Valley and provide examples for what can be accomplished if you are willing to take a risk.

Anne is the first of 3 interns we plan on hosting in the next few months. Soon we will travel around the region collecting artists’ work as stock for the giftshop and begin creating displays to promote their local galleries and art. Our programming is kicking off again starting with a continuation of the Sundance Festival’s Film Forward program and a massive curation day in celebration of National Museum Day. October will see an art opening and a photography class. We are working to make the museum a place people are comfortable to visit. We are working to make people feel what we do – that this is the most fun museum ever.



Slow season


Following the watercolor workshops that ended our youth summer programs, we held two hikes into the desert for some plein aire painting. Here’s one of mine of Indian Hill in Anza Borrego State Park.

It was a good end to the slower summer months. At the Society of American Archivists conference I managed to garner a lot of encouraging support for the museum. Simmons College, where I completed my Masters, is very interested in establishing an intern program in Ocotillo.

Back on the home front its time to prep for the influx of visitors known as “snowbirds”. When the desert calms down and becomes more… tolerable…. the annual visitors to the Valley will start filtering back in to take advantage of our unique environment.

With a commitment from a new intern and a plan to stock the gift shop with local art, I’m excited to welcome the next wave of visitors to the new Imperial Valley Desert Museum.

In the Press – paper & video


There is nothing in the Imperial Valley Press that this county doesn’t see. This week the museum was featured on the press website in a video and article about our watercolor class. We are testing various programs to see what type of programming the community is interested in, while at the same time “being seen to be hard working” as Ben Franklin would advise. We are building an audience.




Salvation Mountain Research

The museum is researching Desert Sized Art as part of it’s Artist-in-Residence program funded by the Stern Foundation. We have a wall assigned for dynamic research – as visitors place their votes for things that interest them, the artist finds similar art installations to hang, creating an interactive exhibit. As the exhibit grows, we develop the concept of Desert Sized Art and what types appeal to the local community.

We took a weekend to explore some local Desert Sized Art – the famous Salvation Mountain in Niland, just 40 mins north.

The Folk Art Society of America has declared Salvation Mountain a national folk art shrine worthy of preserving. Leonard Knight created the mountain out of adobe covered straw,  tires, and natural wood supports. In the middle of the barren desert it’s a colorful haven and obviously a labor of love. He worked on it for over 30 years. It still has signs of expansion.

I loved the colored trees and in-sets like little treats that showed pictures and stories of the mountain’s progress.

While we were exploring the mountain, we saw in the distance the concrete water tanks that would have served the army base. They were covered in their own sort of art, but a very different theme than Salvation Mountain – The Karma Sutra.

I’m interested to know which art was placed first, though I think I have an inkling.

We also stopped to see the mud pots – geothermally heated boiling vats of mud.