History of the Museum

During the great uranium boom of the late 1950’s, old and new residents of Moab began to consider the value that a museum might bring to the town. Here was a region with a past rich in geological change, paleontological remnants and a human history that stretched from pre-historic cultures to Mormon pioneer families to the new miners and investors. And, yet, there was no place where that fascinating history could be presented and preserved.

On November 13, 1957, members of several civic organizations met to initiate the formation of a museum. By February 1958 after just a few more meetings, the non-profit Moab Museum was organized and eventually incorporated as the Southeastern Utah Society of Arts and Sciences. Amongst the early organizers was Lloyd Pierson of the Lions Club who would serve as the first museum curator, volunteering his service from 1957 to 1961 while he was the Chief Ranger at Arches National Monument.

In 1959, Grand County donated the use of a small four-room adobe house located at 150 East Center as a “temporary” home for the new museum. On August 22nd, 1959, the facility opened to the public. During the first 14 months of operation, a volunteer staff of about 125 Moab citizens saw some 6,000 people come through to see the exhibits.

After seven years in its “temporary” home, in April, 1965, the Museum moved into a larger new building at 118 East Center where its collections continued to expand.

In 1979 and 1980, Dan O’Laurie, a successful business man and philanthropist, made sizable contributions to the Museum. He set up a building fund and even personally paid the salary of the receptionist when necessary.

On August 20, 1988 – some 29 years after the Museum first opened its doors-- the structure we see today was dedicated as the Dan O’Laurie Museum of Moab