The Museum of Moab celebrated 60 years of preserving the area’s culture this week with two events that acknowledged the history of its past, while looking forward to big changes in the future.
On Saturday, Jan. 20, the museum opened its doors to everyone who wished to celebrate its 60th birthday. More than 100 guests who attended the party ate cake, participated in a scavenger hunt, and took selfies with masks of Bates Wilson, Helen M. Knight, Charlie Steen and Doc Williams. The guests also had the opportunity to view a guideline for some of the museum’s projects beginning in 2018. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, the museum hosted its membership jubilee at the Grand Center. The jubilee included a dinner and a dessert dash, in which tables could bid to win their pick of handmade desserts, and the MoMmy’s, a museum awards presentation. In addition to the fun and celebration, the jubilee featured presentations on the museum’s performance in 2017 and on its upcoming projects this year.
According to its annual review, more than 8,200 people visited the Museum of Moab in 2017. It was the second-best year of attendance in the past decade. The museum now has 331 members, 170 of which were in attendance at the Jan. 20 jubilee. Records show that museum attendance and revenue has grown over the past 20 years, and the organization’s staff and board members are preparing to facilitate and accommodate even more growth in order to serve Moab residents and tourists alike. “In the next three to five years, the museum intends to continue to build its operating budget and over the next 15 months will be working on a complete overhaul of our exhibits to enhance the visitor experience,” wrote Executive Director John Foster in the annual review.
At the jubilee, members heard a presentation from Anne Bernard of Renate Museum Planning and Design, the firm leading the Museum of Moab’s “Renewal Project.”
“We will work with all of you to transform your experiences and your stories into a medium that speaks to the heart of your community,” Bernard said. Her team used community engagement surveys done by the museum earlier this year to compare the current exhibits with resident needs.
“We were amazed with how many stories you had to tell in one space. You have an encyclopedic amount of material,” Bernard said of the museum. “One of the results from the community engagement survey showed a pent-up demand to tell a more complete and compelling history of Moab and the Canyonlands,” she continued. “I don’t think you could tell a more complete story, but certainly we’re going to work on the compelling.”
Bernard explained that her team is considering new designs for the museum’s current location, including moving the central staircase, regularly rotating exhibits and artifacts, including some of the more modern aspects of Moab’s history, such as Edward Abbey’s novels, or the climbing and mountain biking culture.
“We’re pretty excited about that, just because it’ll be the first time in a number of years that we’ve reorganized and upgraded the exhibits,” Foster said of the renewal project. “We’re starting the planning now, and it will be going on about a year. We’ll be installing around this time next year.” Foster is optimistic a new design for the museum could be open by March 2018.
The jubilee also featured a teaser video for another of the museum’s current projects: The Old Spanish Trail Digital Experience. “The thing we really like about that project is, because Moab is located basically right along the trail, it is a good example of a number of stories related to the area,” Foster said. “The reason people were following the route here that they were is largely related to why people settled here going back thousands of years, through the 1800s until now. So in a way it starts a conversation in a lot of other aspects of the history around here.”
The result will be a 20-minute video composed by a team of professional photographers, historians, musicians and actors. The museum is raising funds for the estimated $100,000 cost of producing the film.
“It’s a story about our nature as humans to explore and seek, to endure hardship in the quest of a better life, including personal and economic gain, and how today people, especially migrants, continue to do so,” said project leader Dennis Brown.
For the final portion of the jubilee, Foster and museum Development Director Christy Williams-Dunton hosted the “MoMmy Awards.” Notable awards and their winners were the “Visionary-Dutch Oven Award” which went to the late Bates Wilson, the “Grand MoMmy Award” which went to the late Virginia Fossey, and the “Lost in Time Award” which went to Dave Vaughn, John Strong Newberry, the late Fran Barnes and Barbara Jackson.
More information about the Museum of Moab’s upcoming projects can be found on its website at moabmuseum.org.