News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

High Desert Museum reopens

The High Desert Museum was to reopen to the public on Wednesday, June 17. In accordance with state and local parameters, new practices will be in place at the Museum to ensure the health of visitors and staff.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about welcoming visitors again for the first time in three months,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “We miss our community and of course are excited for visitors to return. We’re committed to reopening in a manner that is responsible to visitors and staff while also providing the inspiring High Desert Museum experience people value.”

The Museum closed on March 17 as part of measures aimed at mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Museums are now allowed to open again under the state of Oregon’s guidelines.

“We view the health of the public and staff as a top priority,” said Museum Board Chair Ryan J. Hagemann. “Staff have analyzed every aspect of our facility to ensure we have the best possible safety procedures in place.”

As part of reopening, the Museum will require visitors and staff, both in front of and behind the scenes, to wear face coverings. They will not be required for those who experience health issues or disabilities that make wearing a face covering difficult, as well as for those younger than age two. They will also not be required for wildlife curators in certain situations.

Visitors will also experience other changes at the Museum: Physical distancing signs and reminders are present throughout the grounds. The number of people at any given time inside certain exhibit spaces will be limited. Hands-on elements in exhibits remain closed for the time being, as well as a few other areas of the Museum, such as the “Whose Home?” indoor play space.

And while the Museum encompasses both indoor and outdoor space, the number of people visiting at any given moment will be capped to ensure adequate space for physical distancing.

A timed entry system with advance ticket purchase is being put in place to help manage visitor numbers: Find details at Some tickets will also be set aside on a first-come, first-served basis for Museum members and walk-ins.

“This time is uncharted territory for all of us,” Whitelaw said. “We’ll be observing and assessing what works and adjusting as needed as we navigate these first couple of weeks.”

For those most at risk if they contract coronavirus, the Museum will open an hour early on Sundays at 8 a.m. This hour is for vulnerable populations and their families only. Those interested in visiting during this time can sign up at

More information about new safety measures at the Museum can be found at

New experiences await at the Museum. Visitors will enjoy a exhibition yet to be seen by the public called “Natural Wanderment: Stewardship. Sovereignty. Sacredness.,” a collection of portraiture by photographer Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip). The exhibition that debuted on March 20, during the Museum closure, will be extended to September 7.

Wilbur journeyed 250,000 miles creating images of Native Americans from the nation’s more than 562 federally recognized tribes. The photographs, black and white with coloration, feature indigenous people of all ages, dressed in contemporary and traditional clothing, often in natural landscapes.

The resulting photography and the stories of her subjects highlight contemporary Native America and the ways that native people seek to protect ancestral ways of life. Learn more at

The run of the original High Desert Museum exhibition “Infinite Moment: Burning Man on the Horizon” has been extended to January 3, 2021. The exhibition had been in the gallery less than two months at the time of the Museum’s closure. Visit

The Museum’s Kids Camps are also slated to proceed with modifications for safety in place. The Museum has been communicating with caregivers about camps. Slots remain open in several camps: To learn more go to

The public may continue to enjoy the Museum’s virtual offerings at, a hub for virtual field trips, educational activities for children to do at home and other resources. A virtual launch of Ellen Waterston’s new book, “Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail” will take place on the evening of Wednesday, June 17. Find registration information at


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