OCOTILLO, Calif. – The Imperial Valley Desert Museum will finally open here on June 17 more than three years after the $700,000 building was completed. But, it will still only be open for very limited use through the summer.
The opening of the museum was made possible by a $2,000 grant through the Imperial Valley Community Foundation, and another $3,000 in donations and fundraising monies, according to museum director Neal Hitch. Hands-on coiled pottery classes for kids will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at the museum throughout the summer, free of charge.
Hitch is working on grant funding to get the museum fully open and operational as early as fall. If the museum had $50,000 right now to complete the museum’s displays, he said, then they could open. But that wouldn’t solve the larger issue of funding in perpetuity for the museum, which Hitch says requires about $5 million for operations, education, exhibits, and programs. (Story continues below the audio slideshow.)
Finding funding resources was way-laid while the new museum’s leadership changed hands. Imperial Valley College no longer wanted responsibility for the museum, so management was shifted to the non-profit Desert Museum Society.
“You can have classes in archeology, or (you can) run the museum in Ocotillo,” said Charles Bucher, a DMS representative.
And there is the matter of meeting federal mandates in documenting the more than 12,000 artifacts, which is ongoing. The museum’s thousands of stone, pottery and other items have been in storage since the original Imperial Valley College Barker Museum was destroyed in the 6.5 earthquake in 1979. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management requires tedious documentation and photographing of the centuries-old desert treasures, a process that won’t be finished for a very long time, Hitch said.
Hitch logs regular updates at the museum’s online blog. And further information about summer classes can be obtained by calling the museum at 760-358-7016.