Imperial Valley Desert Museum



Last Tuesday, Neal Hitch of the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, stood in front of the board of supervisors asking for financial consideration when the county redistributes Public Benefit money from the various green energy facilities.

Hitch has a valid cause. As head curator he is charged with cataloguing, preserving and displaying ancient artifacts of the Imperial Valley Native American Indians. The museum has procured $120,000 of private funds, but the Bureau of Land Management requires a more sustainable annual income to support a sustainable professional crew or the artifacts will be taken from the valley and deposited in another facilityAlthough the BLM does not put a monetary figure on a sustainable museum income, the director thinks $250,000 -300,000 will be needed to qualify as being a federally certified curation facility.

One of the ironies is the wind, solar, and geothermal companies must hire archeologists to scour the grounds before building can begin to preserve Native American artifacts and send everything they find to proper museums. All of these potsherds and ollas are being shipped out of the valley. If some of the Public Benefit money could be spent on the museum, those very items could return to their rightful home. Especially since their new 10,000 sq foot facility offers the only curation lab in Imperial County


Steve Benton, secretary of the Museum Society said, “The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is a new facility in the heart of the Yuha Desert housing Native American and historic artifacts collected from within the Imperial Valley. Opening a new museum in the twenty-first century, we did not want to be seen as an exhibit within four walls, but we want to engage and interact outside of the limitations of new building.”

Currently, twenty volunteers are curating over 20,000 artifacts as the Imperial Valley’s rich desert history begins to unfold. This Saturday, September 22, the museum will be inviting all who have an interest in history to come help catalog the archaeology collection by unboxing each item, tagging, then putting the item in a museum quality bag and then a museum quality box. The mission of the Imperial Valley Desert Museum is to preserve, interpret and celebrate the deserts of Southern California through outstanding collections, research, and educational programs. Their goal is to be the foremost research and educational institution devoted to preserving, interpreting and celebrating the Imperial Valley desert. These artifacts were found by the archeology classes from IVC and amateurs hiking in the desert.

A Youth Program focused on Coil Clay Pottery Methods

The Ceramic Art Program is the Desert Museum’s keystone youth program. It was developed as a hands-on educational program to celebrate the cultural past of the Imperial Valley. At the Desert Museum, they put value in experiential learning and the Ceramic Art Program encompasses that ideology by encouraging students to develop their own methods of coiled clay pottery.

The Ceramic Art Program is inspired by the Desert Museum’s collection of 100 ceramic vessels made in the Imperial Valley in the 18th and 19th centuries. The program was developed for students to have the opportunity to study original artifacts, after which they attempt to reproduce the styles made by the populations who first lived in the southern California deserts.


The museum is open from Thursday through Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm. Volunteer Days to curate is every Friday and Saturday, 10 am -3 pm by appointment only.

To visit the museum, take exit #89 – Ocotillo off Interstate 8. Take a left off the exit ramp. After the underpass, take a right. The museum gate is 0.5 miles on the left.

Visit their blog at

The museum can be found on the web here

If you are interested in helping to tag and organize the archeological finds, email Jessica Brody at