Dr. John R. Foster, the new director of the Museum of Moab, visits the Burgess Shale locality in British Columbia. [Photo courtesy]

Big changes are in store for the Museum of Moab.

First among those changes is a new director: Doctor John R. Foster.

Foster will be leaving his position as the curator at the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colo., to accept his new position at the Museum of Moab.

“I’ve always loved Moab,” Foster said. “I’ve been coming over for fieldwork for twenty years.”

Foster, who has a strong background in paleontology and geology, studied dinosaur tracks and did some digging at sites relating to the Jurassic and Triassic time periods.

His wife, Rebecca Hunt-Foster, is now working as a paleontologist for the Canyon Country District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Foster has been to the Museum of Moab a few times over the years.

“It’s a museum with some of the greatest potential energy I’ve ever seen,” he said.

He cited three elements: The collections that are now on hand and that can be expanded; the local audience and the number of visitors to the area; and the natural and human history of the area.

Foster earned his doctorate degree in geology from the University of Colorado, his master’s degree in paleontology from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and his bachelor’s degree in geology from Occidental College.

“He has a proven track record in fund raising and grant writing,” said Don Montoya, the museum’s president for the board of directors. “He has four books and edited volumes that have been published, as well as numerous articles and abstracts.”

The museum director position was vacated this fall when former museum director Travis Schenk took a position with the Space Foundation Discovery Center Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Montoya said one of the main goals for the museum is to achieve American Alliance of Museums Accreditation.

At this time, artifacts collected on public lands in the Moab area have to go to an accredited museum. With accreditation, the museum would be able to have those objects remain in Moab.

“The museum can be a repository for federal and state collections,” Montoya said.

Foster said that this is important goal.

“As an institution that is charged with preserving the history of an area, the core is the collections,” he said. “We’ve got some now, but what we really need is some improved conditions for storage and more capacity.”

In doing so, Foster said, the museum will be able to build a better collection of artifacts.

“If we build a collection, we can have expanded and improved exhibits that better tell the story, make it more entertaining,” he said. “With a larger collection, you can rotate things and liven things up a little.”

Montoya said that the board set a goal to start a capital campaign to build a new museum that is on par with other regional museums and attractions.

“We have outgrown our capacity and need to seek a new home,” he said. “The museum can become a high quality museum attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year, a museum that has state of the art exhibits and displays, one that can host high-caliber events, one that makes us part of this destination place just as Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point State Park, Colorado River Corridor, and the La Sal Mountains, a museum that is unique, that combines and shares our cultural and natural history.”

Montoya also said that the Museum of Moab could become a host for regional conferences in the areas that we represent, such as archaeology, paleontology, geology, mining history and pioneer history.

“It’s all a matter of dreaming what you need to put that vision into place and finding the way to do it,” Foster said. “We’re at the point with the museum we’ve outgrown what we can do with what we have. We’re ready to grow a bit and grow into a next level of sophistication. I’m hoping to enter into a very active phase.”

Goals set for Museum of Moab to expand collection; new capital campaign

“We have outgrown our capacity and need to seek a new home.”