Friday, January 18, 2013

Maturango Museum expansion gaining momentum

Harris Brokke shows off the progress on construction at Maturango Museum. The first phase on the expansion project is gaining steam and should be on schedule to finish this year.

By Jack Barnwell

Construction efforts are picking up steam for the first phase of the Maturango Museum's expansion, according to Harris Brokke, its executive director and chief executive officer.

“It's starting to go quite steady after the first of January,” Brokke said. “There's been progress almost every day and we're pleased with that.”

While the walls still need to be thrown up on the inside, the concrete has been poured, some of the sidewalks and landing pads established and the museum's vision very quickly coalescing into a very tangible form.

"The first thing that is going to open is the new store, which is 1500 square feet, three times the size of the current store," Brokke said. "The store manager's new office, the restrooms, break room and equipment room, all that will open when we open what is called phase one."

Brokke estimated that portion would open up in April.

"The next few things that will occur is digging the septic system and trenching for the water line for the fire suppression system," he said.

"Because of the size of the new gallery, we need fire protection," he said. The second phase, containing a large gallery, which will be the new art gallery — three times the size of the current art gallery.

Brokke said that part of the construction will include a room for the gallery docents to host some programs and store materials, in addition to an exhibit preparation area.

"We anticipate the second phase to be completed in the last quarter of this year," he said, adding that the museum is tentatively planning the third phase completion in the early part of 2014.

The road from planning to construction has come quite since the idea first came up more than six years ago. The expansion, according to a Ridgecrest planning commission staff report, will add 5,605 square feet to the current museum facility's 3,500 square feet.

"Once we finish phase one and phase two, we're going to reconfigure the current space," he said. "Where the store and break area currently is will become additional storage area."

Brokke said the museum could use with more storage area.

The rest of what the current store will also transformed into an exhibit preparation room.

The current art and concert area where the Maturango Museum hosts its art exhibits and concerts will be transformed into a regular exhibit area, Brokke said, becoming the south gallery.

"We'll not only have a larger art gallery (in the new expansion), but the new art gallery will also include the concerts and the lectures," he said. "We'll be able to accommodate more people."

The north gallery, which hosts the Coso geothermal and Navy exhibits, along with natural history like the stuffed mountain lion, will remain the same.

The museum, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has sat on its current location since 1975. It operates largely on the donations from its members, store proceeds, fundraisers and admissions and the dedication of its volunteer docents.

"The expansion has been made possible by donations from our members," he said. Harris said the community support for the expansion has been "outstanding."

"We have enough money to complete phase one and almost enough to complete phase two," he said. "The museum will need some additional donations to complete phase two."

The general contractor for the first phase is Bakersfield-based Valley Steel, with some local subcontracting to Ridgecrest-area people.

Maturango Museum also plans to expand its garden along China Lake Boulevard to cover the entire length of the building, Brokke said. A committee plans to discuss plants, walkways and will include metal shaman sculptures created by Bakersfield metal artist Milt Burford.

Part of the reason for the garden is part of a Ridgecrest ordinance requiring some sort of plant coverage for buildings facing the city's main streets and boulevards. Brokke said the expansion wasn't the only thing under development for the Museum.

"In addition to the construction, we are also in the process of developing a 20 year strategic plan for the entire property," Brokke said. He said more information would be released as the plan undergoes development.

Maturango Museum currently sits on a portion of land leased from Kern County. "We are excited about the new museum and frankly I think the public is too," he said.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Volunteer masons to practice on Fort Piute

Preservation of Fort Piute sponsored by
Mojave National Preserve and HistoriCorps
Fort Piute, Mojave National Preserve
Scope of Work: Volunteers will learn to stabilize the masonry walls using earthen mortars mined onsite. At this workshop volunteers will learn to:
  • Find, evaluate, and mix earthen mortars
  • Repoint historic stone walls
The project will be managed and supervised by two HistoriCorps instructors and will be designed to optimize learning opportunities. Camping, tools, safety equipment, and meals will be provided by HistoriCorps but transportation to and from the project is the responsibility of the participant. All crew members must be physically fit and be willing to work long days in variable weather.

Fort Piute historic diagram.
History: Garrisoned intermittently from 1859 to 1868, Fort Piute was one of many small forts and outposts linking California, Arizona, and Nevada by military presence. Fort Piute was also called Fort Beale after Lt. Edward Beale, who, in 1857-59, explored the area by camel looking for viable cross-country routes through the desert. Today, only the masonry walls of the fort remain, but compared to many of the small garrisons of this era, the site still retains the same “edge-of-the-frontier” feel as it did over 150 years ago. The site is near a perennial spring with commanding views of the area.

To learn more about this project please contact Amy Eller, HistoriCorps Volunteer Coordinator,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Exhibit opens at Kelso Depot Visitor Center

Photography, poetry on display through April 6

"He Walked Away from His Former Life" (Gabriel Thorburn)

Staff Reports
Desert Dispatch

BAKER • Mojave National Preserve in Southern California invites desert travelers to experience the photography of Gabriel Thorburn and the poetry of Russell Thorburn, now on exhibition in the Desert Light Gallery at the Kelso Depot Visitor Center.

The exhibit, Many Names Have Never Been Spoken Here, will be showing now through April 6, 2013.

The Kelso Depot Visitor Center is on Kelbaker Road, 34 miles south of Interstate 15 at the town of Baker. It is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; telephone (760) 252-6108.

As Mojave National Preserve Artists-in Residence, Russell Thorburn and his son, Gabriel Thorburn, spent two weeks exploring the Mojave. During their residency, they discovered the desert as a place of solitude and self-reflection.

As a poet concerned with lost paths, Russell Thorburn explored desert trails, seeking the significance of travelers who came before, and the forgotten lives of former desert residents. Gabriel Thorburn's photography illustrates the places that inspired the poetry.

Prints from the exhibition will be available for purchase at the Park Store at Kelso Depot Visitor Center for the duration of the exhibit. Russell Thorburn is the author of four books of poetry and lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Gabriel Thorburn is a filmmaker and fine art photographer in Los Angeles.

At 1.6 million acres, Mojave National Preserve is the third largest unit of the National Park System in the contiguous United States. While you won't be able to experience it all in a single visit, taking the time to plan ahead will ensure a safe and rewarding adventure.

The renovated Kelso Depot is now the primary Visitor Center for Mojave National Preserve. Former dormitory rooms contain exhibits describing the cultural and natural history of the surrounding desert.

The baggage room, ticket office, and two dormitory rooms have been historically furnished to illustrate life in the depot in the first half of the twentieth century. A 12-minute orientation film is shown in the theater.

Basement gallery space features rotating fine art collections by local artists, focusing on the cultural history and natural splendors of Mojave national Preserve.

For more information about the current exhibit, Kelso Depot of Mojave National Preserve, visit

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Visit the famed Old Woman Meteorite

Old Woman Meteorite at the Desert Discovery Center in Barstow.

Trevor Summons, Correspondent
San Bernardino Sun

When he was about 3, my eldest son, Michael, had the unfortunate experience of having a ceiling falling down on him. It was in his grandmother's house and no one was ever able to explain how it happened. For about 18 months he would always check the condition overhead when he entered a room in her house and asked if it was "all mended now?"

I had totally forgotten this episode, that occurred about 45 years ago, until I walked into the Desert Discovery Center in Barstow. This is the home of the Old Woman Meteorite, and there it was - on the floor just inside the entranceway.

Now, if that had fallen on your head, you'd not have been in any condition to inquire later about anything. It weighs more than 6,000 pounds and is 38 inches high by 30 inches wide.

It's a dark brown color and there is a part of it polished as some was removed for scientific analysis and also for permanent display at The Smithsonian.

No one seems to know exactly when this impressive object decided to fall from the skies, but the formation is likely to be some 4 billion years old - when the solar system was forming.

It was discovered in 1975 by three prospectors seeking their fortune in the Old Woman Mountains, and they tried unsuccessfully to make a claim on it. A series of arcane laws did not allow such a claim to be made on meteorites and so they lost out. The contents of the rock are mostly iron with some nickel and other small amounts of exotic materials.

The rock began its newly discovered life being shown at various Bureau of Land Management locations in Southern California before it spent a few years at The Smithsonian. However, in 1980, it was returned - well, about 85 percent of it - to its present home.

This interesting museum is home to a number of other artifacts, too. Director Jane Brockhurst showed me one exhibit called Crazy Cactus, the result of an art project that involved recycled materials.

There also is an outside pond that is home to some rather rare fish called Mojave Tuiechubs. These were thought to be extinct until they were found at Zzyzx, near Baker. They are believed to have come from a line of Ice Age creatures.

Visitors can see a number of other fascinating items including a solar stove - I doubt that it can handle frozen food in a couple of minutes, though!

Children's paintings and drawings give the entire place a feeling of youth and there is no entry charge, which adds to the attraction.

Join the Pioneers and party like it's 1888

Downtown San Bernardino's E Street around 1900.

Mark Landis, Correspondent
San Bernardino Sun

If you look up "pioneer" in the San Bernardino Valley history books, you'll find their pictures there ... the founding members of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers. These trail-toughened individuals all came to settle Southern California by wagon train, horseback, or on foot.

It was 125 years ago this month that they founded what today has become the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society.

To commemorate the landmark anniversary, the society is putting on a gala celebration that would make those hardy old souls proud. Rain or shine, the event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 19 at the San Bernardino Depot, 1170 W. Third St., San Bernardino.

The event will feature numerous pioneer displays and live demonstrations spread throughout the beautifully restored 1918 Santa Fe Railway Depot. The depot now houses the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum, which is packed with excellent historic displays.

Among many other highlights during the day, there will be three live bands performing including the Redlands Pickers, The Camp Carleton Coronet Band, and the Bascom Pioneer Band.

Live demonstration displays will include blacksmithing, gold panning, quilting, rope-making, doll-making and pioneer games. There also will be an authentic stagecoach offering rides in the depot parking lot.

A food booth will feature Harvey House recipe pancakes, and other baked goods from pioneer recipes. Hot dogs and drinks also will be available. T-shirts, souvenirs and memorabilia will be on sale, and local authors will be on hand to sign copies of their books.

Western re-enactors will be strolling through the crowds, and guests are welcome to dress in pioneer-period clothing.

The San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers was formed on Jan. 21, 1888, in the old county courthouse. The list of charter members reads like a who's who of local pioneers.

Some of the more notable names were John Brown Sr., famed grizzly hunter and mountain man; Judge Nicholas P. Earp, patriarch of the famous Earp clan; William Holcomb, who started the great Holcomb Valley gold rush of 1860, and Robert Waterman, who went on to become a wealthy miner and governor of California.

The society started out as a rather exclusive men's club. To be a member, you had to be a male U.S. citizen who was a resident of California prior to the 31st day of December, 1850, or a resident of San Bernardino County when it was organized on April 26, 1853. Descendants of anyone who fit these requirements could also be a member. An honorary membership could be obtained by a unanimous vote of the society.

The membership rules eventually were amended to allow women members. However, other charter rules greatly limited membership eligibility, which eventually led to a dwindling roll call.

The pioneers were literally old pros at celebrating, and they found frequent reasons to do so. Most of their celebrations were centered around patriotic anniversaries like the Fourth of July and the presidents' birthdays. The group rarely missed an opportunity for a good ol' flag-raising party.

Their meetings were opened with a group song called "The Golden Land." They would sing other patriotic songs including "God Bless The Pioneers," written by a member of the society. As the years passed, discussing the faltering health or passing of other members became a regular agenda item.

At the Oct. 14, 1893 meeting Nicholas P. Earp, 80, was wed to a Mrs. Alexander, 53. Both were society members. According to the newspaper announcement, "After handshaking and all sorts and styles of congratulatory remarks and speeches, William Stephan sang an original song composed for the occasion."

After decades of community service and preserving the history of the area, the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers found itself with a seriously declining membership. In 1982, they merged with the San Bernardino Historical Society which had been formed in 1977 as part of the city's participation in the 1976 U.S. bicentennial celebration.

The result of the merger was today's San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society. This society continues the good work of the earlier groups, working diligently to preserve the history of the area.

The society operates a historic reference library and museum at 796 N. D St., San Bernardino (on the southwest corner of 8th and D streets). Meetings featuring local history presentations are held on the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m.

For more information go to:

During the Saturday event, five presentations on local history subjects will be presented:

10:15 a.m. Steve Shaw: "The San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society."

10:45 a.m. Richard Thompson: "Literature of the Local Pioneers."

11:15 a.m. Nick Cataldo: "The Earps in San Bernardino."

1 p.m. Stuart Forsyth: "The California Southern Railroad."

2 p.m. Mark Landis: "The History of Arrowhead Springs."

Monday, January 7, 2013

California TV Personality Huell Howser Dead at Age 67

The Tennessee native with an interview style described as "magnificently unslick" moved to Los Angeles in 1981
Huell Howser
By Jonathan Lloyd

California television personality Huell Howser, known for his affable interview style as he toured some of the state's landmark locations, died Sunday night at age 67, according to KCET.

Howser, the host of TV's "California's Gold", retired from the show at the end of November after nearly two decades on public television stations. Howser died Sunday night from "natural causes," according to KCET.

Ryan Morris, Howser's producer and long-time friend, confirmed he died Sunday night at home after a "long illness."

Howser moved to Los Angeles in 1981. The Tennessee native worked at a television station in Nashville before serving in the Marine Corps.

He worked at WCBS in New York before moving to LA. "California's Gold" became the best known of Howser's magazine-style TV shows about his travels in the state, but he also hosted "Visiting with Huell Howser," "Road Trip with Huell Howser" and other programs.

Howser, who lived in Twenty-Nine Palms and Los Angeles, was known for his friendly style during his behind-the-scene interviews at restaurants, historic sites, schools and other community institutions.

His style was described as "magnificently unslick" by LA Times columnist Howard Rosenberg.

Map: Huell Howser's California

"We operate on the premise that TV isn’t brain surgery. People’s stories are what it’s all about," Howser said in a post on, the website of Huell Howser Productions. "If you have a good story, it doesn’t have to be overproduced. I want our stories to reveal the wonders of the human spirit and the richness of life in California, including its history, people, culture and natural wonders."

Howser's programs were broadcast on KCET in Southern California. A statement on the station's website described Howser as a host who "elevated the simple joys and undiscovered nuggets of living in our great state. He made the magnificence and power of nature seem accessible by bringing it into our living rooms. Most importantly, he reminded us to find the magic and wonderment in our lives every day."

In September 2011, Howser announced that he planned to donate his "California's Gold" episodes to Chapman University in Orange. The donation includes show episodes, papers and memorabilia related to the show.

The items are part of the Huell Howser Archive. Howser selected Chapman University because the school's president, James Doti, sent him a note to apologize after failing to connect with Howser during his visit to Orange.

"That really impressed me -- in this hectic world, to get a personal letter signed by the university president," Howser said of the letter. "That’s the kind of personal contact that resonates with me. It got me thinking about the legacy of my work and how I wanted it to become available to a wider audience."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Inyo County museum looks back on 2012

Inyo Register

During a year-end review of 2012 county operations, Eastern California Museum Director Jon Klusmire spotlighted accomplishments in the face of a tight budget. His report was delivered during the last Inyo County Board of Supervisors meeting of 2012. The following is a brief summation of Director Klusmire's comments:
  • The Eastern California Museum installed the successful exhibit, “Personal Responsibility: The Camp Photography of Toyo Miyatake,” which was featured in stories in the Los Angeles Times, Rafu Shimpo and other publications.
  • A grant from the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, allowed the museum to digitize and document about 9,000 photos from its collection of 29,000 images.
  • A grant from the U.S. Forest Service allowed the museum to digitize about 1,300 photos and duplicate about 15 linear feet of documents that make up the Inyo National Forest Supervisor’s historic archives.
  • Both of these projects made a wider selection of the museum’s photos and documents more accessible to the public.
  • The non-profit Friends of the Eastern California Museum once again supplied critical financial support to the museum, in addition to hosting numerous events and activities.