Marvin Walder/The Broadside
The exhibits and scenery of the High Desert Museum likely bring back nostalgic and fond memories for many. With the museum’s programs and educational opportunities, many Central Oregon locals have likely visited the museum at some point in their lives, especially younger generations who took field trips to the museum through local school districts. And now, in 2021, the dedicated team behind the High Desert Museum is working to continue providing those experiences to the public.
The High Desert Museum just south of Bend has faced some unique challenges due to the ongoing pandemic.
For starters, they require constant staffing to take care of the animals that live on-premises, most of which are animals that have been rescued and are unlikely to survive alone in the wild. Furthermore, the staff has to archive and maintain around 29,000 historical artifacts in what they call “The Vault.” These two major responsibilities require experienced staff to visit the museum daily to keep things running smoothly behind the scenes.
In terms of attractions available to guests, the indoor exhibits are currently closed due to the current “extreme risk” status of Deschutes County COVID-19 restrictions. It is planned that the extreme risk status will be lifted on Jan. 28, meaning the High Desert Museum will again be allowed to have guests visit the indoor attractions in limited numbers if all goes well.
In the meantime, the High Desert Museum is still open each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and all of the outdoor exhibits are still open to the public. Many activities are still available to guests as well. The most notable of which include the living history characters at the historical ranch, two live bird of prey demonstrations a day, and a fun scavenger hunt bingo for bronze sculptures of local wildlife hidden around the museum’s grounds.
The Sage Trading post and Rimrock Cafe are also currently open to visitors, offering bespoke gifts and outdoor seating to those who are interested.
Heidi Hagemeier, the director of communications at the High Desert Museum, said that “I think overall people have still been coming to the museum and have been enjoying the spaces, even though we’re only open on the exterior. It’s wonderful that we can provide that kind of resource for the community.”
To Heidi and the rest of the High Desert Museum staff, one of the most important and rewarding aspects of the museum is the positive impact it has on the local community.
High Desert Museum staff have also worked on creating opportunities to interact with museum patrons using online platforms.
“We’ve really dug in with virtual tools and trying to bring the museum experience and museum-quality learning onto Zoom and onto the website,” Hagemeier said. “We’ve crafted virtual field trips, and we had one of our exhibitions take place online. So I think some of these virtual aspects are things that we will continue to incorporate into what we do.”
While online additions will in no way replace the experience of visiting the High Desert Museum in person, Hagemeier thinks they will make valuable additions to the experiences that the museum can provide.
For those interested in visiting the High Desert Museum, any information about times and events can be found on the High Desert Museum website.
Since the museum can only admit a limited number of guests, there is an optional timed ticket function that helps the museum regulate admissions.
There’s also Wonder Wednesdays, where students of Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes counties and their families can get tickets for $5 each.
Keep an eye out for the reopening of the interior attractions because the limited time Daredevils exhibit and the environmental impact of Beavers will definitely be worth a visit.