His office is surprisingly spacious considering how many things are in it. Rocks of varying color and texture sit on just about every surface in the room; one has a fossilized tooth in it. A five-foot long, rusty crosscut saw leans against some shelves that are lined with books about dinosaurs, reptiles and varying aquatic species.
John Foster is the new director of the Museum of Moab as of February 2014. Previously, he worked with the Museum of Western Colorado for 13 years. He saw the job opening in Moab and applied.
“I was looking for a new challenge,” he said. “I liked the fact that this museum has a diversity of content under one roof. Here, you have everything composing one story.”
Currently, he is tasked with organizing the museum’s annual ice cream social to celebrate Pioneer Day, Thursday, July 24
“I’m just keeping the tradition,” he said. “This has been going on for 35 years.”
This year, ice cream provided by Crystal’s Cakes and Cones will be served on the museum lawn and Mill Creek Station will provide musical entertainment from 6 to 8 p.m. There will also be a teepee set up and games for everyone to play. Everything will be free and donations will be gratefully accepted. The museum will be open during the fun for anyone who wants to explore inside.
Museum of Moab employee Billie Provonsha has been associated with the museum since 1958 when the museum was first organized, and has attended many of the ice cream socials.
“I think it’s a good deal,” she said. “We’ve got ice cream cones and it lets people make good relationships.”
Pioneer Day is a Utah holiday that recognizes the day Mormon prophet Brigham Young and fellow pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The holiday was first celebrated in 1857. Festivities halted when the Utah war broke out but resumed in 1862 when federal occupation of the territory ceased. Pioneer Day is so popular that most government offices and many local businesses close for the holiday.
“I hope everyone will have fun listening to music and eating ice cream and staying cool in the shade,” Foster said. “This is a fun time to celebrate.”
As director of the Museum of Moab, Foster is responsible for the daily operations of the museum and works with the museum board of directors to look out for its long-term direction. His favorite part of the job is that there is always something different to be done. He deals with many things concerning all aspects of the museum’s maintenance.
Foster found it easy to pick up and move to Moab. His wife, Rebecca, works as a paleontologist for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Moab, and his daughter Ruby will be starting pre-school in the fall.
“We had a feeling it was inevitable,” Foster said. “Moving here was advantageous because we could finally work in the same town again.”
Foster is really enjoying Moab. He and his wife enjoy taking care of their garden, their chickens, and their daughter. They take hikes and occasionally go down the river. He said he enjoys the “pedestrian pace” of life.
Foster’s love for history is derived from an introductory geology course he took in college. He entered school with his eyes set on becoming a marine biologist, but was open to change.
“That geology class, it was something that was never on my radar,” Foster said. “I never really lost my interest in marine biology, but there were so many other interesting things to do, too.”
He became most interested in paleontology, the study of life, and also dabbled in history. He liked making links between multiple subjects. He explained that every stage of human history was influenced by geological history and that history, geology and archeology add context to a place. What seems to be just rocks, rivers and mountains, is actually an exciting story.
“Ultimately I’d like to get the museum to the point where we are telling Moab’s story so well that it is a regular stop for local school groups and the word of mouth among the visitors is ‘go to the museum first to get the history of the area so you can go explore it in a better context’,” Foster said. “The historical story we tell here ranges from geological history to archeological history to more recent human history. We are trying to tell as much of the story as possible.”
Provonsha remembers the museum when it got started. She said that the museum has grown a great deal from when is started and now makes it easier for people to learn about the area’s history.
“It started out in just a little, old house,” she said. “And now we are here.”
The museum sees a global range of visitors and keeps current with locals by hosting many temporary exhibits. No matter who comes in, there is something for everyone.
“I hope everyone will have fun listening to music and eating ice cream and staying cool in the shade. This is a fun time to celebrate.”
What: Museum of Moab Pioneer Day Ice Cream Social
When: Thursday, July 24 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Front lawn of the Museum of Moab (118 E. Center St.)
Cost: Free (Donations gratefully accepted)
Annual event celebrates Pioneer Day