The John Wesley Powell Museum in Page at 6 North Lake Powell Blvd. opened its doors to the public for the first time since 2019 for a “Sneak Peek” at the newly remodeled museum. Around 40 people attended the event. The keynote speaker was Ada Hatch, a longtime resident of Page, school teacher, and lover of the outdoors. Participants met the new Executive Director of the Conservancy.
From left to right:
Ada Hatch, long time resident and retired Page Public Schools elementary school teacher, shows a copy of the Page Signal from December 18, 1959.
The new Executive Director of the Glen Canyon Conservancy speaks to the audience about the future plans for the museum and conservancy.
Two attendees talk about one of the many new outdoor information panels.
Attendees gather hors d'oeuvres before the presentations.
The front facade of the newly remodeled John Wesley Powell Museum in Page.
Members of the Glen Canyon leadership, from left to right: Deanna Smith, Archivist and Collections Manager, Connor Smith, Assistant Executive Director, Kamisha Sloan, Merchandise Manager, and Amanda Boston, Education and Cultural Director.
Members of the audience and museum staff socialize before the presentations in an interior space free of walls.
Members of the audience look at the historic Page memorabilia that Ada Hatch plans to donate to the museum.
Deanna Smith, Archivist and Collections Manager, serves as Master of Ceremonies and answers questions from the audience.
The Museum building originated as the concrete testing laboratory when the Glen Canyon Dam was being built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After the dam was completed, in 1969, the building became the John Wesley Powell museum to commemorate the history of Powell’s exploration of the Colorado River. In 2019, the museum marked not only the fiftieth anniversary of the museum but also the 150th anniversary of the first Powell expedition. The museum is next to the Glen Canyon Conservancy headquarters and flagship store.
In an ironic twist of fate, in early 2019, the museum suffered a sewer line backup into the building that resulted in enough damage that the Glen Canyon Conservancy, who owns the museum, decided to take advantage of the misfortune to remodel the interior of the museum and make new exhibits. Out of the original exhibits, two dioramas remain in their original location. One of the dioramas shows a view from the rim of the Grand Canyon. Another shows the Powell expedition in the Canyon, on the shore of the river. The rest of the museum has been transformed into an large open area, with flexibility to place exhibits that are in the planning and design stages.
No one expected the remodel to take this long. Deanna Smith, Archivist and Collections Manager, led the effort to remodel the museum and exhibits and was hired just weeks before the plumbing mishap. The pandemic slowed things down for a couple of years giving more time to obtain funds and complete the construction. The Museum is expected to hold its Grand Opening, with new exhibits in June 2023.
The interior is modern, sleek and elegant with ‘dry laid’ stone veneers on the columns and wall accents. Many of the original interior walls are gone and the remaining walls are a neutral color. The lighting is modern and there’s plenty of room for new exhibits. In front of the museum and the Glen Canyon Conservancy flagship store, are new interpretive panels describing the history Page, the John Wesley Powell expeditions and native American history of the area.
Deanna Smith, Archivist and Collections Manager, welcomed the guests and introduced Ada Hatch, the guest speaker. Ada Hatch moved to Page in 1971. She was offered a position as an elementary school teacher in Page and was asked if she spoke any Navajo. She did. Hatch taught first, third and fifth grades for years until she retired and continued to volunteer after retirement. After fifty years of service as a teacher, she retired for good when the pandemic hit. Her time as a teacher was almost as long as the museum has existed. She still misses her ‘kids.’
Hatch said that she blazed the way for outdoor education, taking her students hiking, fishing and on boat rides, as a reward for their hard work. It took some time and effort for Hatch to convince school district authorities to allow her to take her ‘kids’ outdoors.
Being turned down by the principal and superintendent, Hatch appealed to the school board. The board told her, “Go for it, Ada” and her class trips became a part of Page’s history. After an appeal to the school board, she got the green light and her classes were famous for taking students out to experience their ‘back yard’. As part of the curriculum, her classes learned to leave the outdoors in better condition than they found it and would collect aluminum cans to recycle to help fund classroom activities. Hatch remarked that the current owner of Page Steel, Doug Gardner, was in her first and third grade classes. Gardner once brought in a ‘can smasher’ that his dad helped him make so the aluminum cans the class collected wouldn’t take up as much room.
When the Bureau of Reclamation put some forty homes for sale in Page, Ada and her husband bought one and remodeled it into a passive solar home. She recalls that it cost them $11,000 at the time.
Hatch shared a table full of memorabilia that she collected over the years, including a copy of the original Page newspaper, the Page Signal, from December 18, 1959 announcing the naming of Page for the former Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, John C. Page and announcing that the new school is expected to be open in Fall 1959. She plans to donate her collection of memorabilia to the museum. For now, Hatch says “As long as I can see new canyons, I’ll be here!” Hatch has been an active member of the “Happy Hikers”, a local hiking group and has explored many canyons.
Hatch has a long history with the Powell Museum. She, along with Marie Golliard and Stan Jones created the museum’s collection catalog system, a system still being used today. Through the museum’s website, people will be able to view images of the museum’s collection.
The guests were able to meet the new Executive Director of the Glen Canyon Conservancy, Debbie Moses, who hails from South Dakota where she was at Mount Rushmore. Moses is glad to be in Page and looks forward to the grand opening, currently expected in June 2023.
The Museum was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help with the costs of remodeling. Readers who might want to help with costs of the exhibits may do so. Sponsors for the new exhibits are welcome. The ‘Emma Dean’ model, a boat actually used in the Walt Disney movie about the Powell expedition called “Ten Who Dared” has stood outside and is showing its age. The museum plans to build a new cover structure and restore the boat. Donations are being accepted for the cover and boat restoration.
There was a generous and varied hors-d’oeuvres table allowing guests to socialize and get reacquainted with friends, some of whom hadn’t been seen since before the pandemic. There was plenty of room to socialize in the new expansive space.
For more information about membership, volunteering, donations and sponsorships, please visit www.canyonconservancy.org. Museum information can be found at https://www.canyonconservancy.org/museum.