Powell Museum seeks sponsors for exhibits ahead of reopening

Pat Talbott works on restoring a diorama at the Powell Museum on April 26.

After three years of renovation work, the Powell Museum and Archives is preparing to reopen its doors to the public as early as this summer. 

Ahead of the reponing, the museum is currently seeking businesses to sponsor its new exhibits, which will cover a range of diverse topics, including John Wesley Powell, the history of river running, Indigenous culture in the region, Glen Canyon Dam and Page, and geology.

Powell Museum Archivist and Collections Manager Deanna Smith, who put together the exhibit plan, said she wants to keep the museum similar to what it was before it closed in June 2019 due to flooding from a backed-up sewer system. 

“I just wanted to make sure that the message that we’re now sharing is a little bit more up to date, since facts change all the time,” she said.

However, not all exhibits will be the same as before. For example, the Fossils of the Kaiparowits display, made possible through a partnership with the Kanab Bureau of Land Management Office, will showcase five dinosaurs discovered in the Grand Staircase region. Among them is a juvenile hadrosaur with skin impressions, which has never before been displayed to the public. 

“The BLM approached us knowing that we had this grand opening coming, and they have a lot of fossils that they haven’t had a chance to display since the pandemic,” Smith said. “That one is going to be amazing, with all the different fossils we’re getting.”

Another exhibit will discuss John Wesley Powell’s influence on the region, how he became interested in the West, his cartographic influence and his two expeditions on the Colorado River. Items on display will include two dioramas restored by Pat Talbott, several portraits and prints, and cartography artifacts.

A Manson Mesa exhibit will focus on life on the mesa before Page was established. The display will include Navajo rugs, weaving combs and photos of Navajo sheepherder Manson Yazzie, who lived on the mesa before Bureau of Reclamation workers arrived to build Glen Canyon Dam. There will also be a display acknowledging the five major Tribes of the Colorado Plateau – Zuni, Paiute, Navajo, Hopi and Southern Ute – by showcasing the art of each Indigenous group.

Another display will highlight the evolution of commercial river running on the Colorado River in the years after Powell’s expeditions and will include a rubber raft used by pioneering river-running guide Georgie White, which was recently donated to the museum by Grand Canyon National Park. 

The large three-dimensional map currently located in the main Glen Canyon Conservancy (GCC) office in Page will also be moved into the museum. 

Debbie Moses, the new executive director of GCC, said the museum was looking for exhibit sponsors because the cost of the displays was not part of the loan that was taken out to pay for the renovations. 

“The board realized the advantages of reopening the museum, so they made the decision and the commitment to take out a loan to renovate the museum. It wasn’t something that we just had the funds in the bank for,” Moses said. 

“Because the actual displays for the museum were not incorporated in the loan, we are fundraising for the exhibits. That’s what we’re fundraising for right now, to get the museum open. But in order to get it open, we need to order the displays for each of those exhibits. We’re doing a little bit at a time.”

A couple of the exhibits have already been funded, include Fossils of the Kaiparowits and Geology in Stone, the latter of which focuses on the geology of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

“What we’re hoping is that if someone wants to sponsor the river running exhibit, for example, they could have their name on a plaque as the sponsor for that exhibit,” Moses said. 

She added that many locals have approached her and told her how much they love the museum and have asked when it’s going to open.

“We’ve realized the advantages that the museum brings as another attraction and educational tool for visitors that come to Page. It also can keep people in Page a little longer,” Moses said.

Smith said the museum has been renovated with the local community in mind – it will have a more open design so that the facility can host lecture series and other public events, and possibly show relevant movies such as “Ten Who Dared” (1960), which chronicles Powell’s 1869 expedition through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River.

“We wanted to keep this so it could be not only a museum space but allow the community to have events in here as well,” Smith said.

She added that the museum always welcomes donations to its collections, including photos and stories from pioneers.

She would also like to revive the Page Oral History Project, a collaboration between the museum and Page Public Library involving the recording of stories about the early days of Page as told by long-time residents. Recordings that have been made in the past can be accessed online as part of the Glen Canyon Conservancy’s digital collection (www.canyonconservancy.org/collections).

“I think in the future we should bring back our oral history interviews, since we still do have some Page pioneers in the community,” Smith said. “They did a lot in the 1990s, they picked it back up in 2014, and now I think it would make sense since it’s been almost 10 years, if people are comfortable now to do those interviews. It’s something that the library has mentioned before too. That was the partnership in the past.”

Smith said she was also open to hearing other ideas about new exhibits. For example, she has been approached by Aramark, which would like to help with a boating display. 

“In that conversation, they’re going to bring up some more information about the lake,” Smith said. “They’d like to see a little bit more in here. So, I’m open to ideas like that if there are things that people think we need to talk more about.”

In February, the museum unveiled a new outdoor exhibit consisting of nine educational wayside panels with information on John Wesley Powell and his accomplishments, regional history, Indigenous culture and other aspects of the museum’s collection.  

The exhibit, which is accessible to the public even when the museum is closed, was made possible by a grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Businesses or individuals interested in sponsoring exhibits at the Powell Museum and Archives can contact Glen Canyon Conservancy Executive Director Debbie Moses at 928-660-7885 or [email protected].

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