Mission & History


To explore the High Desert’s unique landscape, cultures, wildlife, history and arts, connecting our visitors to the past and helping them discover their role in the present and responsibility to the future.


To enable a deeper understanding of the region's arts, culture, history and natural sciences through the presentation and interpretation of visual art exhibits, historical artifacts, living history performances and wildlife encounters.




From the dreams of a young biology student ....

Donald M. Kerr

Donald M. Kerr, a native of Portland, Oregon, founded the High Desert Museum out of a passion for natural history that began when he raised a wolf cub for his high school biology class. This experience inspired his lifelong interest in environmental issues and the lives of predatory animals. Out of the belief that we can make well-informed decisions if we understand all sides of an issue, he envisioned a new kind of museum that would show the close connections between people and their environment.

"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."

Kerr's dream became a reality through the creation of the Western Natural History Institute in 1974, and its evolution into The Oregon High Desert Museum, which opened in Bend in 1982. To give it a greater regional role, the name changed to the High Desert Museum. Today, the Museum remains true to his guiding principle that education and experience are the basis for thoughtful decisions and stewardship.