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Restoring History: Topographic Masterpiece Finds Home at Powell Museum

Media Contact: UCB Public Affairs
For Release: Jan 26, 2024
The impressive 13 feet by19 feet map takes pride as the centerpiece at Powell Museum. The impressive 13 feet by19 feet map takes pride as the centerpiece at Powell Museum.

Over a decade ago, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam began planning a major renovation. With this renovation came questions about what to do with the historic topographic map that had previously been the centerpiece of the exhibit. While the large map was a true masterpiece, it was not accessible to those with disabilities and wasn’t a good fit amongst the other displays planned. 

The map was created by artist Robert S. Miller and first found its home at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center in 1967. Spanning 13 feet  by 19 feet, the map was hand-carved with dental tools and made to scale. Including Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell, the map covers three national parks, four national monuments, two Navajo tribal parks, two state parks, six rivers, and five mountains. The map was constructed of isocyanate foam, and is highly fragile, requiring specific climate-controlled conditions to maintain its integrity. 

After much deliberation, in 2016, management at Glen Canyon decided that the map would not be part of the new display when the visitor center was renovated. It would be carefully disassembled into four parts and stored at the Reclamation warehouse in town. While not an ideal option, it was the best way to keep the map safe while finding it a new home.  

One of the main considerations made by Glen Canyon management when trying to find a home for the map was its accessibility to the public.  

“It was really important to us that the public was able to access this map and enjoy it in all its glory,” said Glen Canyon Administrative Officer Lori Heibult.  

Glen Canyon Dam management reached out to the Glen Canyon Conservancy, also located in Page, Arizona, to discuss the prospect of donating the map to their organization, and the offer was accepted.  

In 2018, the map was moved from the Reclamation Warehouse, where it had been for almost two years, to the Glen Canyon Conservancy's flagship store, with plans to place it in the Powell Museum at a future date.  

"It was like finding the perfect home for a puppy; the conservancy was the ideal place for this map to go, and we were thrilled to donate it to them," said Heibult. 

The extensive map required meticulous restoration efforts for reassembly. Luckily, Page, Arizona local and artist, Pat Talbot volunteered to do the painstaking work of putting the map back together while maintaining its integrity. 

Now, five years later, the map is officially in its forever home at the newly renovated Powell Museum.  There it sits as the centerpiece of the museum and is seen by over 100 visitors a day during the summer peak season.  

“This map is an institution, and we are proud to have it on display at the museum,” said Glen Canyon Conservancy Operations Manager Amanda Boston.


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