Powell Museum to reopen Sept. 2 after four-year closure

Bob Hembree
Posted 8/30/23

The Powell Museum and Archives held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 25 ahead of the museum’s reopening to the public on Sept. 2.

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Powell Museum to reopen Sept. 2 after four-year closure


The Powell Museum and Archives held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 25 ahead of the museum’s reopening to the public on Sept. 2. 

Mayor Bill Diak was on hand for the event. 

“I love museums, maybe I like things old, and now I've become old,” Diak told the Chronicle. “To see it come back to fruition and open again is fantastic. And they've done such a great job. A lot of thanks to all their partners. And Aramark, I know they helped with a bit of it and they're here tonight.”

Aramark, adding to its long history of contributing to the community, sponsored, staffed and catered the Friday evening ribbon-cutting event.

Water damage forced the museum closure in June 2019. Before the damage, Glen Canyon Conservancy (GCC) hired Deanna and Connor Smith. Deanna is archivist and collections manager; her husband, Connor, is assistant executive director.

Debbie Moses, Glen Canyon Conservancy executive director, addressed the well-attended gathering Friday night. 

“We had a bonus package with Deanna coming here because her husband, Connor Smith, is also the assistant executive director,” Moses said. “Unfortunately, not soon after they were hired. A week before they got here, this building experienced a catastrophic sewage backup. Not very sexy, but that's what happened.”

Earlier in 2019, two 501(c)(3) nonprofits joined forces. GCC merged with John Wesley Powell Museum Historical and Archaeological Society Inc. The museum’s name changed from John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum to Powell Museum and Archives.

“The building we are standing in right now was originally constructed in 1958 as a concrete testing facility for Glenn Canyon Dam,” Moses said to event guests.

“Stan Jones founded the John Wesley Powell Museum in 1969. It was run by volunteers for decades. In 2019, the GCC Board merged with the board of the museum, and that was to continue the educational impact that all of you have told me the museum has had. I'm pretty sure a good percentage of the people here have visited the old museum. A part of that growth of merging together was hiring a collections manager and archivist, Deanna Smith.”

Museum founder Stanley A. Jones’ knowledge of the region earned him the nickname “Mister Lake Powell.” Jones, a former staff writer for Salt Lake Tribune, was a boater, hiker, photographer, writer and publisher. He also worked for Walt Disney Productions, producing trailers for motion pictures in the 1950s and 1960s.

Deanna Smith manages the museum collection, including over 10,000 items in storage.

“A big part of that was digitizing things so that it could be accessible to people online,” Smith said.

“But overall, since the museum has changed hands so many different times, there were so many different cataloging styles, so everything now follows one numbering scheme. We follow Library of Congress standards.

“A majority of it is photographs and slides, so that will live online permanently. But we would like to cycle out. We have a lot of rugs that haven’t been on display for many years, so that’s something that we’d like to cycle out. And then there’s talks for an Old Spanish Trail conversation about an exhibit. And then something that hasn't been on display in a long time is the Hanks collection. And he was in charge of the Rainbow Bridge excursion. So that’s something that we’d like to showcase in the future.”

Connor Smith, in addition to running operations for GCC, contributed his woodworking skills in the museum remodel. 

One of the many contributors to the remodeling and restoration of the museum is the Canyon Club. 

“Some of our past projects the Grandview Overlook Park, the 4H Club, animal barn, the Page Memorial Plaza across from City Hall, [the] North Lake Powell Boulevard overlook ramada – just about any shade structure in Page has the Canyon Club name on it,” club member Kay Leum said. 

David Auge, in addition to serving on the Page City Council, is also a longtime member of the Canyon Club. Auge told the Chronical how club members moved the huge relief map into the museum. The map was originally on display at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center. 

 “The Canyon Club donated $13,500 to do this display here,” Auge said, referring to the Geology of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument display.

Admission to the museum is free to local residents, though donations are encouraged. 

“We don't always have a lot of money to throw around, so any donations period would be extremely helpful for the continuance of everything,” Connor Smith said. “The Glen Canyon Conservancy’s website has the infrastructure for all donations and contact information to talk to the executive director, the operations manager, anybody that anyone needs to speak to, depending on the size and weight of their donation.”

For more information, visit https://www.canyonconservancy.org/.