The Imperial Valley College Desert Museum represents the creative vision of noted archaeologist and anthropologist Jay Crawford von Werlhof (1923-2009)
A prolific author, von Werlhof wrote many scholarly books and articles on the archaeology and history of the Indigenous people of the California desert regions. Throughout his 55-year career, he conducted archaeological research in each of California's 58 counties. After relocating to the Imperial Valley in 1973, von Werlhof documented more than 10,000 archaeological sites within Imperial county. These sites included geoglyphs, rock art, lithics and trails never before acknowledged. A gifted artist, he illustrated numerous archaeological site records and articles, many of which are on file at his alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley.
While serving on the faculty of Imperial Valley College, von Werlhof conceived of and worked to establish a museum to display and interpret the archaeology and prehistory of the region. First housed in downtown El Centro and known as the Baker Museum, the museum building was heavily damaged during a earthquake what struck the southern Imperial valley in October 1979.
A series of fund-raising efforts launched in 1992 culminated in the construction of the current 10,000 square-foot facility designed to preserve and display the various collections gathered over the years. The museum is also meant to serve as an educational locale, introducing visitors to the wealth of archaeological materials discovered in the Imperial Valley. Many businesses, public agencies, service clubs, Native American tribes and generous individuals joined to help make von Werlhof's vision reach fruition.