The Emery County Museum Board is nearly half a century old, and now through their efforts there are two fine museums located in Castle Dale.
In June of 1989, the museum board reorganized. Dixon Peacock left the board after serving 18 years as the chairman. Jon Judd of Castle Dale was then appointed director. Owen McClenahan retired from the board, and Kent Petersen became chairman of the board. Sharon Earl, Lee Swasey, and Janet Petersen also came to the board at that time.
During this transition period, Emery County and Castle Dale City took advantage of applying for grants through the Community Impact Board funds. Plans were drawn up and decided upon and a substantial grant was awarded for the large building which sits on the corner of 64 North and 100 East in Castle Dale. Judd was involved with every step of the grant writing, the plans, and ultimately the construction. Judd saw the building through to completion with his skilled workmanship showing in every detail.
Upon completion of this new museum, Peacock was named as director of the museum. The board and many volunteers put together displays, moving much from the Pioneer Museum. A catalog system was put into place and fine tuned. Collections and items from more people and families were loaned for display. McClenahan donated his extensive rock collection that is a part of the tour, especially for the hundreds of children who enjoy and learn so much in the dark room with the ultraviolet light showing off the vibrant colors of various rocks and ores. This museum
has sections on paleontology, archaeology, Indian artifacts, and mountain and desert scenes.
After a museum closure in Nevada and through the help of the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake, many animals were offered to the Museum of the San Rafael for use in displays. The museum board initiated the help of local artists to paint backgrounds, gathered rocks, brush, dead logs, various native plants and tree limbs to make the settings for these large and small animals. Some leap out at the visitor, some hide in their burrows, or sleep on top of a log, each in its own natural environmental setting.
All this time the museum board kept the doors open by volunteering many hours themselves. Jan Petersen, now executive director, is also the business administrator, and has literally kept the museum running. Petersen, Peacock, and board member Dixie Swasey were instrumental in getting Green Thumb workers again so that the museum could be open with regular hours, do the maintenance, cleaning, and help with activities in the multipurpose room. Petersen has been the purchasing agent for the gift shop, the driving force behind most of the fund raisers, even cooking up barbecue dinners, designing and selling afghans that helped with restoration of the Pioneer Museum. Through Petersen's efforts the museum has received and shown two outstanding exhibits: the World War II posters entitled "Produce for Victory" from the Smithsonian, and the "Chinese Folk Art" from Exhibits USA. She has applied for and received many grants for the museum over the years, most recently two grants, one to help with the new mural and display in progress now, and the other will help with replacing the windows at the Pioneer Museum building.
Even before the plans for the building were complete, the idea was to have a large enough facility to house major exhibits, rent out for meetings and special events to support the museum. This room has been used for meetings by state and federal organizations regularly, as well as local organizations and county functions. Countless weddings, receptions, anniversary and birthday parties have been held there, not to mention three funerals.
"The people whose funerals were held here, were such a part of this museum that it was so appropriate to have the last farewells said here in the place that they loved and had worked so hard to help," stated Peacock.
A museum volunteer, Claire Browning, and her husband, Gene, (who, at first came along to be with her and then became a volunteer himself), had made so many friends while in the area through the museum, that their funerals were both held there. And the room was barely large enough when devoted and long-standing board member, Virginia Talbot's funeral services were held. Virginia and her husband, Gene, put in hundreds of hours and miles, donated their photos, rock and jewelry collections for exhibits, besides all the manual labor they helped with.
Bones of two large dinosaurs had to be put together to display in the large rotunda area; an oversized jigsaw puzzle with many bones missing. Jim Madsen and his class from the University of Utah came to help complete the puzzle, then Peacock and Talbot painted the two completed dinosaurs.
The displays are rotated throughout the year, with new items spotlighted that keep it interesting even to those who visit often.
Local artist, art teacher, and board member, Clifford Oviatt, is working on a mural that will cover the whole east side of the San Rafael exhibit room. This must be seen to fully appreciate its enormity. It will depict the San Rafael Swell starting at Window Blind Peak, traveling all through the Swell, with rock formations and twisted cedars Cliff's every brush stroke brings it all to life. New animals, large and small, will be procured as part of this magnificent new drama now in process.
Last year at this time, 43 Utah museums were represented at the Museum Day at the Legislature; 29 were given awards of excellence, including the Museum of the San Rafael. Many museum officials from throughout the state have visited the Museum of the San Rafael and have had nothing but praise for the quality of this small but fine museum.
In 1999, Governor Mike Leavitt asked Jan Petersen to join the Utah Office of Museums Services Advisory Board, where she has been able to make an impact for smaller and rural museums. She attends monthly meetings also as part of the Museum Action Team under the direction of Lt. Governor, Olene Walker. She has been able to learn and form relationships that have helped the Museum of the San Rafael in many areas.
At this time Green Thumb workers are Doris Lamb, Vanae Caldwell, Wilma Perkins, Earlene Jensen and Willard Young who work weekdays at both museums, greeting visitors, answering phones, cleaning and arranging, keeping displays new and interesting and doing anything they are asked to do. Several volunteers help during the year and especially during the fair and Castle Valley Pageant time. Betty Bunderson of Emery is a full time volunteer and very faithful. Bert Oman gives guided tours, and especially enjoys telling all the details of the Pioneer Museum.
Those serving on the board at this time are Jan Petersen, Dixon Peacock, Kent Petersen, Dixie Swasey, Dawnette Tuttle, Clifford Oviatt, Pete Jones, Gene Talbot, Randy Jensen, Mark H. Williams, and Bert Oman. A membership drive will be underway soon.
The new Cultural Olympiad exhibit, "Artists of the American West" will be shown Feb. 7 - March 9.