By Mario Conde
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors will support the Imperial County Desert Museum in getting the funding and support they need to keep cultural artifacts.
The item was requested by Supervisor Jack Terrazas who introduced Neal Hitch, Executive Director of the Imperial Desert Museum. The main work of the museum over the last two years, Hitch said, has been the recuration of the Imperial Valley College Archaeology Collection, which is being completed under the Memorandum of Agreement with Imperial Valley College.
During this time, the museum has implemented a conservation lab, has brought on curation staff and developed a thriving volunteer curation program. Currently, there is no federally approved curation facility that would fill that need, and the museum has worked with BLM El Centro in the hope that artifacts from the Imperial Valley will stay in the Valley and will benefit locals.
Hitch explained that in the beginning of 2011, the mechanism for funding the museum was assumed to be from the mitigation funds of clean energy projects. A few energy projects have committed to long-term funding and strategic planning in the spring of 2011 determined that the museum would require an additional $2.5 million dollar endowment to sustain long-term operations. The mitigation for the Tenaska Solar project included $200,000, which would have been used to begin this operating endowment and it was planned that additional mitigations funds would follow.
“These projects have now moved to private land and the museum was not fully funded through energy mitigation.” Hitch said.
He also mentioned that the museum has not received approval from the state office of BLM to curate BLM artifacts. After reviewing the museum, BLM determined that the museum does not meet the minimal federal standards as they have no permanent staff, no guaranteed source of revenue and no record of performance. This means that currently, all cultural artifacts collected during the construction of renewable energy projects are being removed from the county, along with curation funding and curation jobs associated with the ongoing project in the Imperial County.
The Board agreed that this was an important issue to support and directed County Council Michael Roode to draft a resolution for next meeting their support to the museum and will work with the BLM and have them support the museum.