About Us

The Museum

About Us

Discover the natural world and cultural history of the High Desert through artful exhibits, alluring animals, engaging programs and meaningful history.

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The High Desert Museum has been inspiring families since 1982 and is consistently rated as the top Central Oregon attraction by Trip Advisor. With 135 acres and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space in the Museum, it’s a “must see” for anyone travelling through – or living in – the region. Get a close-up view of native wildlife, such as river otters, porcupines and raptors. Talk with historic characters who share tales of early Oregon homesteaders. Visit an authentic ranch and sawmill from 1904.

Experience a close encounter with owls, falcons, hawks and even a vulture. Learn about Native American culture and history, and delight your children with one of many fun, hands-on programs that bring history and science to life.

The High Desert Museum is located just five minutes south of Bend, Oregon on Hwy 97, and includes a Museum store and café. Open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fourth of July.

Our Vision

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Our Mission

Through our exploration of the High Desert, the High Desert Museum cultivates a world where people and the landscape thrive together.
The High Desert Museum wildly excites and responsibly teaches through innovative, interdisciplinary experiences, creating connection to and dialogue about the High Desert.

Our Values

Curiosity The High Desert Museum evokes wonder to create and inspire lifelong learners.
RelevanceThe High Desert Museum leads by addressing community challenges, encouraging dialogue and building meaningful partnerships.
InclusionThe High Desert Museum welcomes everyone and strives to provide accessibility for all.
StewardshipThe High Desert Museum thoughtfully cares for all that is entrusted to us, being mindful of our responsibility to the past, present and future.
Cultural HumilityThe High Desert Museum respects diverse cultures and perspectives and continually challenges our biases.
IntegrityThe High Desert Museum is ethical in all that we do.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services named the High Desert Museum as one of six recipients of the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.

The Museum was recognized for providing dynamic programming and services through community outreach, working to create programs that offer rich educational programming and expand museum access. 

Donald M. Kerr

Our History

“I’ve raised a wolf and two great horned owls,” Kerr said. “I’ve been lucky to have these experiences that aren’t possible for most people. I wanted to bring others closer to nature, to experience it, to learn to maintain it.”

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Donald M. Kerr of Portland, Oregon was very aware of the preciousness of the High Desert landscape and its abundant life and fragility. He was a teacher to the core and felt strongly that if people were provided with good information, they would make wise decisions about this place he loved.

He determined that the best way to help people see what he saw and feel what he felt, to become stewards of this landscape, was to create the High Desert Museum. When he set his sights on something, the word “no” dropped from his vocabulary.

But it kept showing up, especially among potential donors. When Don told Robert Chandler, editor and publisher of The Bulletin, what he planned, Chandler said, “You need to get a real job. This’ll never work.” Don persisted and Bob Chandler became one of the Museum’s strongest supporters.

When the Museum opened in 1982, not even Don Kerr could he have imagined how those seeds of wonder, discovery and connection to place that he planted would blossom and grow, educate and enrich, hundreds of thousands of children and adults who come from near and far to experience what Don created.

2024 Board of Trustees

Executive Director: Dana Whitelaw

Board Chair: Nelson Mathews

Collections Chair: Cameron Kerr

Development Chair: Sharon Gueck

Finance Chair: Kevin Palmer

Governance Chair: Gary Cutler

Secretary: Romy Mortensen

Museum Board: 

Katherine Bloomfield

Tucker Bounds

Bobby Brunoe

Carson Campbell

Kathryn Collins

J. Ned Dempsey

Ali Dietz

Mary Faulkner

Ryan Hagemann

Maria Hall

Peter J. Hall

Margi Heater

Andy Jordan

Connie Kearney

Julie Miller

Josh Newton

Peter Richter

Steve Shropshire

Susan Skalski

Justin Snyder

Phyllis Swindells

Terry Valeski

Christine Vernier

Billy Williams

Rich Wininger

Life Trustees:

Michael P. Hollern

Tom Triplett

2022 – 2023 Advisory Council:

Bob Boyd

Elaine Brong

Ron Cochran

Peggy Cushman

Robert Dahl

Win Francis

Linda Goodman

Sharon Hewitt

Peter Holzer

Bill Hutchison

Randy Labbe

Tim McGinnis

Craig Moore

Nancy Oren

Rick Parker

Jordan Schnitzer

John Shelk

Gretchen Willison