March 28, 2008

Cataloging history

Mojave River Valley Museum plans first comprehensive inventory in its history

By Jason Smith, staff writer
Desert Dispatch

BARSTOW - It may look like a very strange yard sale, but it's not.

Volunteers spent Friday morning moving an antique grandfather clock, hundreds of rocks, minerals, fossils and other artifacts from the Mojave River Valley Museum on Friday into boxes for vehicles waiting in the parking lot. The spring cleaning was needed to prepare the museum for a $25,000 re-carpeting project, paid for by city and federal funds.

While closed, volunteers will catalogue the museum's collection, estimated at more than 10,000 pieces, some on loan from private collectors and the San Bernardino County Museum. The museum will remain closed for at least two weeks, depending on the time it takes to complete the project and reset displays, said the museum's president, Steve Smith. It is the first time the museum has closed in about 30 years, he said.

Smith said that the organization has never made a comprehensive list of its items before because the volunteers that run the museum lack the time necessary to complete the massive project.

"It's a matter of finding a volunteer who has the ability and has the time to do it," Smith said. "If we had the money, we'd hire someone to do it, but we don't."

Among the museum's items to be cataloged:

• A circa-1940s radio transmitter used in former Barstow radio station KWTC that operates on vacuum tubes. The museum still has boxes of spare vacuum tubes and allegedly still works, Smith said.

• A collection of about 20 Native American baskets from the Anastasi, and Pueblo Indian tribes and other across the south western United States and the world.

• Part of the more than 800-pound Bishop Rock, named for Samuel Bishop, who founded the town of Bishop. Bishop wrote his name on the rock to mark the location of supplies for the camel led Beale expedition in 1857. The rock was found in a riverbed, taken by helicopter and recovered by the Bureau of Land Management. It became the property of the museum about 20 years ago.

• A fossilized tooth from a Dire Wolf, believed to have lived more than 10,000 years ago. The tooth was found at a construction site in Victorville in 2006 and is believed to have been one of the first found in the High Desert, said the museum's vice-president, Bob Hilburn.