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Returning to Work at a Native Museum

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

By: Rich Rodriguez, Museum Educator


Returning to work at a Native Museum – things have changed just as much as they have stayed the same – and that’s not a bad thing.

Most of you might recognize me; I worked at Barona Cultural Center & Museum for a number of years when it was establishing roots in the community. I have recently rejoined staff and am amazed by how much the Museum has grown. This is a most exciting time—as we celebrate the Museum’s 20thanniversary, I look back at the early years as Education Coordinator for Barona Cultural Center & Museum and realize how essential my role is. Part of my educational duties at Barona Cultural Center & Museum is to give tours and outreaches to any interested group. Most of these are school groups, particularly third- and fourth-graders. However, we love presenting to groups of all kinds and all ages—senior groups, Scout groups, Daughters of the American Revolution groups, etc. There is never a fee for these programs. Imagine the number of people the Museum has reached in 20 years—wow!

During my hiatus from the Museum, I earned a Master’s in Business Administration and I spent the past 8 years working in Retail Operations and Sales. In early 2019 I found myself moving back to San Diego for a new position and it felt like I was returning home. Shortly after moving back to town, a position opened up at Barona Museum. This position for Education Coordinator was the one I held but it had grown and evolved tremendously! With the help of two former Education staff members, O’Jay Vanegas and Mallory Genauer, the position has become much more of a scholarly one and the caliber of programs and curricula is much higher. I’m fortunate to return and build upon their work, taking the Museum to the next level. The past couple of months have been a whirlwind and very unexpected—I mean this is the most wonderful way.

Looking back over the years, I recognize that exhibits have changed, some staff has changed, and the Museum store has definitely changed. The Museum was awarded an IMLS National Medal. In case you don’t realize, this is kind of a big deal! We also were awarded the ATALM Guardians of Culture Award. Barona Cultural Center & Museum is nationally known! This museum really is a leading institution—we strive to be a place to gather for all, Native and non-Native, to learn about the past and inform the future. The Museum’s mission is to keep culture alive and passed on to the next generation.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for tours and outreaches in the community. I welcome you to the Museum for a tour and if you prefer that I come to you, call me—I’m happy to set up an outreach for your group. Tours and outreaches are completely free—Barona’s gift to the residents of San Diego County. It is such a treat to be back and teaching people about San Diego’s Native People.

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