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Moab in Worldwide Wars
by Moab Museum Staff

Throughout 2024, the Moab Museum will reveal the role Moab played in two of the most significant global events of the 20th Century: World War II and the incarceration of Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Cold War race to beat the Soviet Union to develop and build nuclear weapons. Both events changed the world and humanity in many ways and put our then remote and then small city on the map.

These events and many much less significant others like them demonstrate author Yuval Noah Harari’s observation that “History is not just about the past … it’s also about change.” This year the Museum invites readers to experience two stories that are known to many Grand County residents – but also provoke us to think about how they led us to the world we live in today.

Opening on Saturday, February 17, A Moab Prison Camp: Japanese American Incarceration & Isolation in Utah focuses on the United States government’s response to the bombing of America’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and the legacy of incarceration (“internment”) and prison (“isolation”) camps. Within days of the attack, America was at war with Japan, German, and Italy, as two separate continental conflicts merged into a truly worldwide war.

More than 120,000+ Japanese Americans were relocated to camps across the West, including at Topaz Incarceration Camp (Delta UT) and Moab Isolation Camp. For 106 days in early 1943, so- called “troublemakers” from other camps were imprisoned at the Moab Isolation Camp, a former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp fourteen miles north of Moab at Dalton Wells.

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan called the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans a “grave injustice” that caused “incalculable” human suffering ... based solely on race.” To deliver a thought-inspiring experience the Museum has collaborated with Utah State Parks interpretive staff to share the stories of Moab Isolation Camp prisoners and their descendants, and with the Smithsonian Institution for images and messages from its Righting a Wrong poster exhibit.

While Charlie Steen didn’t discover Moab, he did make the discovery that changed Moab forever. But his 1952 discovery of a large vein of high-grade uranium ore turned ranchers and farmers into prospectors and attracted many hundreds to seek their fortune in the rugged canyon country landscape. They came by the hundreds and thousands, and this Fall the Museum will share stories of and by the people who were there at the beginning.

Our U92: Moab’s “Miracle” Mineral (working title) exhibit opens on U92 will open on Saturday, September 7, to share the story of why and how the town’s exploding population strained municipal infrastructure, available housing, and schools. U92 also will explore the federal government’s role in promoting mining on the Colorado Plateau and creating the market demand for uranium ore. Although Charlie’s story and Moab’s uranium history are well known to many (especially those who lived through the American vs. Soviet Union era), this experience also will acknowledge the economic, environmental, and societal impacts of the age of “mutually assured destruction.”

We invite readers and your families and friends to join us for during these and other exhibit experiences.

Movie & Western Memorabilia Museum at Red Cliffs Lodge

Indiana Jones PosterRed Cliffs Lodge, on the banks of the mighty Colorado River, is home to the Moab Museum of Film & Western Heritage. The lodge is built on the old George White Ranch, a key location for nine of the big westerns including Rio Grande, Cheyenne Autumn, Ten Who Dared, The Commancheros, and Rio Conchos.

The late George White was founder of the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, the longest ongoing film commission in the world.

In the museum one can learn more about film locations, how the sets are built, and how the filming process is managed on nature’s own sound stage. On display in the museum are production photographs, movie posters, autographed scripts, props from the many pictures filmed in the area, and displays about the western ranching heritage. For information, call Red Cliffs Lodge at 435-259-2002.

Rio Grande Through the magnificent landscapes of southeastern Utah, writers have been inspired and stories born here. Zane Grey, the famous western novelist, traveled through the area in 1912. His visit inspired him to write his book Riders of the Purple Sage. The book was made into a movie starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, and filmed on locations around Moab.

A partial list of stars that have made movies in Moab
John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Henry Fonda, Lee Marvin,
Rock Hudson, Jimmy Stewart, Richard Boone, Anthony Quinn,
Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Crystal,
Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Bill Murray, Jack Palance, Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Ted Danson, Tom Cruise, and many more.

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