Monday, September 23, 2013

The people behind Pioneer’s Museum preserving the Imperial Valley’s history

Tractor at Desert Museum: A rare tractor sits in storage at the museum. It is one of a few left in the world and is in working condition. (Erick Miller, Staff Photographer)

By ALEXIS RANGEL, Staff Writer
Imperial Valley Press

IMPERIAL — Lynn Housouer had heard stories as a young girl about her great-great-grandfathers both fighting against each other in the American Civil War but she never really paid attention until she was old enough to do her own research.

As the Chief Executive Officer and Archivist at Imperial County’s Pioneer Museum, she said oftentimes when we are young we don’t always pay attention to the stories our elders share with us.

“So you just hear it,” Housouer said, “until you are old enough to do your own research because now that my grandmother is gone I can’t call and ask her (questions) like I should have asked her when she was telling me the stories.”

Which is unfortunate, but makes Housouer’s work in preserving the Imperial Valley’s history for future generations all the more important.

She speaks from personal experience, as she says that after her grandparents passed she began cleaning out her grandmother’s sewing room.

To her surprise she discovered a box high above a shelf.

Climbing to reach the box she found an old picture of her great grandfather during the Spanish-American War with his uniform below the photo.

Having worked on the archives for the past 20 years Housouer has handled hundreds if not thousands of artifacts with the help of the museum’s curator Leanne Rutherford.

Both Housouer and Rutherford agree that they have always had an interest in history and working at the museum feels like a treasure hunt.

With more than 6,000 artifacts at the museum everything you see on display is tied in to the history of the Imperial Valley.

Housouer’s role at the museum as the archivist is preservation, she says.

Preserving artifacts, cataloging them into the computer, and making sure they are in an acid-free file folder or bag is an instrumental part of an being an archivist.

“We do what we can to preserve them for our future generations,” she said.

The museum runs on the help of volunteers, willing to give their time in preserving the county’s history.

One of those volunteers, Rutherford helps Housouer research the thousands of artifacts that go into their database.

Rutherford sees her position as the curator a bit different than one might at other museums.
“I help raise funds to keep the museum doors open,” Rutherford said.

Along with fundraising, Rutherford said her strength is in helping Housouer research the artifacts they receive.

Rutherford said she can spend weeks researching an item.

“Because you get to a point and you can’t find the answer you were looking for,” she said, “and you need to know what is going on.”

As curator and archivist at the museum it can be tedious work but Rutherford and Housouer say it is a passion of theirs.