BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Prolific Western author Rick Steber of Prineville claims the High Desert Museum in Bend has banned his books because they go in a different, more progressive direction, sparking an uproar on social media. But the museum, which just turned 40, says it’s not about politics or censorship, only that its books simply aren’t selling.
Here’s Wednesday’s full post from Rick Steber on his Facebook page, and a statement the museum provided to NewsChannel 21 in response:
BOOK BAN – RICK STEBER
The High Desert Museum has banned books by award-winning local author, Rick Steber. He has published more than fifty books, with sales exceeding two million copies, and he has a well-deserved national reputation in the literary world. When Don Kerr opened the museum, one of the first items he added were books by Rick Steber, saying his work was “an accurate depiction of contemporary and historic high desert life.”
Alison Luce, head of retail at the museum’s Silver Sage Trading Store, announced the museum’s harsh censorship, writing in an email: “It has been determined that Rick Steber’s books are no longer aligned with the orientation of the museum. When asked to explain what she meant by “aligned with the direction the Museum is going,” she declined to comment further.
Executive Director Dana Whitelaw explained that the High Desert Museum works to promote events like Burning Man and authors who advocate for “social justice.” She said: “Rather than chronicling a historical perspective, the High Desert Museum will now focus on global climate and contemporary diversity. I’m not saying we ban Rick Steber books, what I’m trying to say is that we won’t sell them in our gift shop anymore. When asked if she had ever read a Rick Steber book, the general manager replied, “I don’t need to.
The High Desert Museum has assets of $27 million and an annual budget of nearly $6 million. The bulk of these funds come from federal and state grants and donations. According to Rick Steber, “I have been a strong supporter of the High Desert Museum, and have been asked to lecture there many times, but I am strongly opposed to this ‘new direction’ of staff and board directors. directors. I will boycott the museum until the museum reverts to the mission statement of its founder, Don Kerr. “Our mission is to inspire and foster wise stewardship of cultural resources and nature of the region. The more people know about this region and the origins of its past, the better equipped they will be to decide the course of its future.”
To express your concern about the draconian censorship imposed by the High Desert Museum, please contact:
Dana Whitelaw at 541-382-4754 ext. 326
Email – [email protected]
Nelson Mathews, Chairman of the Board at (503) 241-0151 ext. 227
Email – [email protected]
Statement from the High Desert Museum:
Recently, author Rick Steber publicly questioned the trajectory and practices of the High Desert Museum over a decision to halt new purchases of his books for our Silver Sage Trading gift shop. This decision was taken during a broader inventory of the stores’ offer and their profitability.
We appreciate Mr. Steber’s work over the years and congratulate him on selling over 2 million copies of his books. But the fact remains that of the tens of thousands of books sold in our Silver Sage Trading gift shop over the past decade, less than 1% were written by Mr. Steber.
Out of respect for Mr. Steber, general manager Dana Whitelaw spoke to him directly about the decision. Unfortunately, the Museum’s account of this conversation differs significantly from the accounts Mr. Steber shared on social media.
As a private, non-profit institution and true to the vision of our founder Don Kerr, we believe in sharing a wide range of perspectives and stories about the high desert region, which spans the Intermountain West. We seek to present issues to spark curiosity, dialogue and discussion. We believe that people can have different points of view and also respect each other.
We don’t believe, however, that characterizing storage as a revenue-generating gift shop, even remotely, stems from “draconian censorship” as Mr. Steber claims.
As we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, we remain focused on upholding our mission “to wildly excite and responsibly teach through innovative, cross-disciplinary experiences, creating connection and dialogue about the high desert” .
We strive to uphold this mission on a daily basis, which includes ensuring that the Silver Sage Trading Gift Shop contains a wide selection of retail products that are both attractive to our customers and related to our exhibitions and programs. underway, and generating revenue for the Museum. He says we ban his books. In reality, we just don’t wear them anymore. Mr. Steber’s description of the situation was inflammatory, inaccurate and unfortunate.