BEND, OR -- The founder of Central Oregon's High Desert Museum passed away Wednesday at the age of 69. Current museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw says Kerr's knowledge of Oregon's western scenic beauty greatly impacted exhibits. "He wanted to make a museum, a people's museum, that really didn't have walls or boundaries. It had rivers flowing through it, and forests, and a wagon- a real wagon- right next to you. And, that's what creates those moments of real inspiration for visitors." She adds, "The arid inter-mountain west has more subtle landscape, and he really wanted to bring that landscape to light for visitors. His intimate knowledge of it was able to create the incredible exhbitions that we see there, today."
Kerr founded the museum in 1982. Whitelaw says he created an innovative and popular attraction for everyone. "In the 90s we had about 100,000 visitors, and now Bend's population is about 80,000 and we have 160,000 visitors a year. So, it's just grown exponentially and we're so proud that his vision was such a driver, not only for visitors in the area, but our local community." Kerr received a biology degree from Oregon State University and taught at the Oregon Zoo.
The High Desert Museum is the only institution in the country with a focus on inspiring stewardship of a region's natural and cultural resources. Whitelaw says a falconry exhibit is already dedicated to Kerr, but staff plan to honor his life in another museum exhibit, soon.