Building closed, but many programs are still available
The doors may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the Methow Valley Interpretive Center in Twisp continues to offer ways to discover how the Methow people, geology, plants and rivers are all connected.
As COVID-19 slowed the world around us, it created opportunities and time for the Interpretive Center to grow new programs and exhibits, said Education and Outreach Coordinator David LaFever.
“As COVID-19 kept us all at home, we thought of ways to tell these stories that are more important now than they ever were,” he said.
A number of events are now offered online, and virtual tours and Interpretive Garden tours are in the works.
“It is a hallmark of humans to come together share something,” said LaFever. “That is not easy to do right now.”
The Interpretive Center had to cancel its usual events: summer camp, field trips with regional school districts, “Last Sunday” presentations, and the screening of “The Winter’s Tale” with the Methow Conservancy, Methow Arts and the Methow Valley Citizens Council.
Despite these challenges, the Interpretive Center remains dedicated to finding ways to connect people with subject matter experts about the Methow Valley’s unique watershed and the people within this diverse ecology.
The downtime created by COVID-19 provided the center with the opportunity to grow existing programs, and create new ones. Its online presence expanded; the website is updated; the YouTube channel has video presentations uploaded regularly, and the Facebook page is fast becoming a valuable connection to the community.
Interpretive Center staff, board members and volunteers updated and improved almost all of the exhibits at the center. “Usually, we are only able to update just one display each winter, this year we could do a wider update,” said LaFever. Displays include an updated “Emergence of the Methow” geology exhibit explaining uplift and glacial effects on geologic formations, the “Ribbon of Life” Methow River ecosystem, “Seasons of the People” portraying the culture of the Methow people, and the “Methow Artifact Research” project.
Interpretive Center members have access to the research library, a phenomenal collection of Native American research sources organized by Diana Hottell and Rich Davis. Members can either borrow from the library, or have access to the archives at the center. The center’s bookstore, through connections with the Burke Museum in Seattle, provides a wide variety of books for purchase on Native American history and culture, children’s language books, wildlife, birding and more.
The newest series of online videos, “Notes from the Center,” was born out of the pandemic and the need to find a “center” amidst upheaval. “Notes from the Center is a play on words,” LaFever said, “our name is the Methow Valley Interpretive Center.” The center strives to engage people in discovering how geology and ecology are at the center of the culture and traditions of the Methow people who continue to live here.
“Notes from the Center” is a monthly online video series. Each video introduces the Methow language name for the month — the name conveys the essence of the season. For instance, the month of June is miktu, arrowleaf balsamroot seeds, an important traditional food. “Notes from the Center –Episode 3 — Balsamroot seeds and more” can be viewed on the center’s YouTube channel.
July’s “Notes from the Center” features local experts talking about their favorite plants. Presenters include Anaka Mines, Dana Visalli, Rosalee de la Foret, Rob Crandall and George Wooten. For their segment, LaFever and Visalli backpacked up the slopes of Mt. Bigelow and Hoodoo Pass to find Alpine forget-me-nots.
Virtual “Last Sunday” programs are offered online until it is safe to gather in groups at the center. Each “Last Sunday” program on a local subject matter by an expert presenter brings stories alive that already exist in the Methow community and watershed.
Through a generous grant from the Methow Fund, the Interpretive Center created a docent training program online, and a handbook for docents. Anyone is welcome to view the docent training videos on the center’s YouTube channel. The first one features Rich Davis discussing stone tools and “the role of the Methow Artifact Research Project in deepening our understanding of the indigenous Methow people and their ancestors,” according to the description of the video.
The gates of the center’s Interpretive Native Plant Garden gates are open, and the plants are in full bloom. Visitors are welcome to stroll the garden paths and sit in the pithouse, which is cool even on the hottest summer day.
New garden signs soon will be installed. Each sign lists the Interior Salish name of the plant. Garden tours are in the works to be offered soon. Look to the center’s website for updates.
The center is still in need of volunteers to help maintain the garden, docents to provide tours, and volunteers to research artifacts, photos, and documents to be categorized and entered into a database. Volunteers can sign up on the website, and donations are always welcome.