A re-imagined museum will open in September of 2019 with updated exhibit designs, contemporary exhibit techniques, and stories with objects that interpret the region’s geology, history and cultures. Specialized museum programming, lectures and temporary exhibits are planned for the duration of the project and will be announced at www.moabmuseum.org and through social media.
“This is an extraordinary moment in the museum’s 60-year history, and a springboard to a new future,” said board President Dennis Brown in a statement. Brown noted that the board and staff have been working since late 2017 to determine the key themes of the new exhibit, the stories it will tell, and the artifacts and specimens that send this message: The geology of southeastern Utah historically has shaped the human experience in this corner of the Colorado Plateau, and will continue to do so in the future.
On Tuesday, Sept. 4, museum staff will begin a two-month process to remove current displays and move them to off-site storage facilities. When the Center Street building is empty, renovation will begin to relocate the staircase, fill in the opening on the second floor, expand the opening between the front and back rooms, and update key infrastructure.
After construction, objects not initially on display in the new exhibit will be re-catalogued and returned to second floor storage. At the same time, fabrication of exhibit platforms, cases and display units will begin, and story text and objects will be finalized and readied for the September 2019 opening.
A key recommendation from community members who participated in an early 2017 assessment of community attitudes and perceptions was to refresh the exhibits. The board commissioned the assessment after consultants questioned the feasibility of a 2015 plan to build a new, multi-million-dollar museum facility along Highway 191. The assessment found that the museum is considered a valuable community asset, but needs to improve its financial position and operating capabilities to move forward.
Given former Director John Foster’s departure, interim Director Forrest Rodgers is guiding the process of redesigning the museum. Rodgers, former director of the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, and NW Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, Washington, conducted the community assessment and led the board planning strategy that decided to refresh the museum.
The museum preserves and exhibits objects, photographs and records that represent the people, families, businesses, and community organizations that entrust their heritage and heirlooms to the museum, according to a press release from the organization.