Guest Post – Helen Walthier on Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum

My sister Helen travelled up from Arizona into Utah to explore the area around Moab. On her way, she stopped at Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding, Utah. This is the site of a small but very good museum. Helen publishes her own blog on creativity and the creative process, but I asked if she would be a guest writer here to tell me about her experience at Edge of the Cedars. Here’s what she sent.

Following several days hiking in the spectacular Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, I had the opportunity to explore the Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding, Utah on my way south. The park includes a very nice museum housed in an attractive building on the outskirts of a small rural town. Also on display here is an historic Chacoan Great House dwelling and Kiva next to the museum. They are part of a larger site that has intentionally been left unexcavated to preserve the site.

Museum second floor displays.

The museum houses an interesting collection of well-displayed artifacts from an assortment of civilizations in the American southwest. They feature historic pottery found in the Gallup, Chaco, Black Mesa, and Mesa Verde areas, among others. Well-presented displays include work with Black-on-white, Black-on-red, and Grayware from various periods. A 15 minute video offers history about the area and makes a good orientation to what you will see in the park.

Display showing pottery from many areas shown in the museum.

The ground floor provides an engaging display of some of their more unusual pieces including a black-on-white effigy vessel, thought to be a Mountain Sheep, and a black vessel filled with woven twine.

Part of what I found so interesting about this exhibit is that they include the stories of discovery for some of these amazing pieces. Many of them were discovered accidentally by lay people out hiking in the area. The Mountain Sheep effigy pot was seen hanging by a toe in a sage bush. One more rain and it would have crashed to the earth and been shattered.

Effigy vessel, thought to be in the form of a Mountain Sheep.

A single strand of twine contained in the black vessel happened to be sticking up from the ground in a cave. Hikers noticed the twine and uncovered the ancient pot. They notified the museum of their find.

Black vessel with twine

The main display of artifacts is on the second floor. It includes pottery, arrowheads, the fascinating remain of a Turkey feather blanket, with a modern version created for the museum by a Native American weaver. The main display room offers many pots, some interesting ones in triangular shapes thought to be depicting birds. The quality of design work, and patterning is fascinating.

Display of bird vessels.
Bird vessels, detail

In addition to pottery, the museum has a remarkable prized sash made with over a thousand intensely colored Macaw feathers. It is the only known one of its kind, and in fabulous condition. The feathers indicate trade with either Mexico or South America where the Macaw lived, but it was assembled in North America based on some of the materials used for construction of the garment.

Macaw feather sash.

Adjacent to the display room is a round viewing room with vistas of the area where the ancient peoples lived. It is worth a look.

Also housed on the second floor is the “Work Area” for museum staff. Their workroom is enclosed with glass making it possible to observe their practice, however they were not working when I was there. On display in that room is an impressive collection of more artifacts.

Museum staff workroom.

Once you have completed your indoor experience, step outside to visit the Chacoan Great House and Kiva. The exposed stonework buildings are small, but provide a nice backdrop for the work seen in the museum. A wooden ladder provides access to the underground Kiva, and is worth the trip down. The historic dwelling community was larger than what is currently exposed, however to preserve the remains the decision was made not to unearth the rest of the ruins.

Chacoan Great House ruins.

If you are in this area of southern Utah this little known museum and park are worth a visit.

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