Museum launches fundraising effort to preserve exhibits
by Steve Kadel
Staff Writer
Mar 07, 2013 | 1705 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Urbanek spent 20 years carving this three-dimensional, balsa wood map of the Moab area.
 										             Photo by Steve Kadel
John Urbanek spent 20 years carving this three-dimensional, balsa wood map of the Moab area. Photo by Steve Kadel
slideshow


One of the Museum of Moab’s top attractions is a three-dimensional balsa wood map of the 900 square miles surrounding Moab.

John Urbanek, who died a few years ago, spent 20 years carving the map, which is based on U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps.

But the work of art is in danger.

Museum Director Travis Schenck says low humidity in the museum is causing the wooden panels to contract, putting more space between each piece over time. The museum constantly runs a humidifier, he said, but when the front door opens, a rush of low-humidity air flows into the building.

“Whatever weather is out there blows right in,” Schenck said.

The problem is exacerbated by a space at the bottom of one of the two doors, which allows a constant draft to enter the facility. The other door is stuck and can’t be opened at all, according to Schenck.

He says humidity levels don’t affect many artifacts in the museum, but the topographical map is of particular concern because of its uniqueness.

“This is a one-of-a-kind object,” he said. “We can’t replace this map. But if we’re proactive, it should last another 50 or 60 years.”

Anne Urbanek, John Urbanek’s widow, said he spent two hours a day, five days a week on the project after he took early retirement from a government career at age 55.

“He had the time and patience to do that,” Anne said. “I was so glad [the museum] took it because it needs to be out where people can see it. It is beautiful.”

Schenck contacted conservators at The Smithsonian Institution and others in Utah in search of a way to preserve the map. No one was able to provide a solution, other than raising the humidity in the building.

The museum’s 113-year-old player piano also is threatened when the humidity falls, Schenck says. The piano, which still operates properly, has all of its original parts.

Schenck believes the answer to the problem is replacing the front doors with new doors that are tighter and will keep the weather out more effectively. He said he has talked with the Grand County building inspector about design requirements and has gotten estimates from contractors. The cost, he says, will fall in the $20,000 range.

Because Schenck doesn’t want to take that money out of the museum’s general operating fund, which would jeopardize other exhibits, he is planning to launch a fundraising campaign during the next year.

“We can get grants, but most of those need matching funds,” Schenck said.

Community members are invited to make a tax-deductible donation by coming to the museum, 118 E. Center St., or by going online at www.moabmuseum.org. Becoming a museum member will be a financial benefit in itself, the director said.

Schenck invites local residents to stop by the museum to see the exhibits that are in jeopardy as well as other displays.

“We want to make sure every object is preserved,” he said.


Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

report abuse...

Express yourself:

We're glad to give readers a forum to express their points of view on issues important to this community. That forum is the “Letters to the Editor.” Letters to the editor may be submitted directly to The Times-Independent through this link and will be published in the print edition of the newspaper. All letters must be the original work of the letter writer – form letters will not be accepted. All letters must include the actual first and last name of the letter writer, the writer’s address, city and state and telephone number. Anonymous letters will not be accepted.

Letters may not exceed 400 words in length, must be regarding issues of general interest to the community, and may not include personal attacks, offensive language, ethnic or racial slurs, or attacks on personal or religious beliefs. Letters should focus on a single issue. Letters that proselytize or focus on theological debates will not be published. During political campaigns, The Times-Independent will not publish letters supporting or opposing any local candidate. Thank you letters are generally not accepted for publication unless the letter has a public purpose. Thank you letters dealing with private matters that compliment or complain about a business or individual will not be published. Nor will letters listing the names of individuals and/or businesses that supported a cause or event. Thank you letters about good Samaritan acts will be considered at the discretion of the newspaper.