Special Collections and Archives blog

New Special Collections and Archives Exhibit Showcases the Lost World of Glen Canyon

In 1965 photographer Tad Nichols captured this image of Cathedral in the Desert, a monument in Glen Canyon, Ariz.,
that is re-emerging.

Cline Library Special Collections and Archives unveiled a new exhibit, Images of a Lost World: Glen Canyon on the Colorado, on Oct. 28.  The exhibit, which was curated by librarian Hank Hassell, features 56 photographs of Glen Canyon and its tributaries before the magnificent canyon complex was flooded by the waters impounded by Glen Canyon Dam.

The physical exhibit will be available for public viewing through July 2023. An online version of is available now and into the future at library.nau.edu/speccoll/exhibits/scaexhibits/glencanyon.

The “Images of the Lost World” exhibit was curated by Hank Hassell, a librarian at Cline Library and the author of Rainbow Bridge: An Illustrated History (1999).

Images of a Lost World features the scenic wonders of a pristine, pre-dam Glen Canyon from several perspectives, including a modern history of the canyon, its prehistoric Native American inhabitants, and the archaeological resources once found in Glen Canyon.

The beginning of the exhibit features 1953 United States Geological Survey 15-minute topographic maps that showed the full extent of Glen Canyon from Hite, Utah, to Lees Ferry, Ariz., before the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.

NAU students viewed a 1962 Dick Sprang photograph of Meskin Bar (Utah) at the October 2022 exhibit opening.

The locations of the photographs in the exhibit are marked on these maps in order to provide geographical context. The images are arranged by river mile, allowing the visitor to make their way down the river both literally and figuratively, and interpretive text at selected points in the display provides additional historical and cultural context.

In addition, display cases feature the “discovery” of Forgotten Canyon, the recreational pioneers of the upper Colorado River, the controversy surrounding the protection and eventual flooding of Rainbow Bridge National Monument, plus a selection of recommended books on Glen Canyon and its history for those interested in pursuing the subject in greater depth.

The images in the exhibit were all drawn from photographic collections housed at Special Collections and Archives.  Photographers represented include folk singer and activist Katie Lee (1919-2017), noted landscape photographer Josef Muench (1904-1998), and Emery Kolb (1881-1976), who with his brother Ellsworth took some of the first motion pictures along the Colorado in 1911.  Images from the collections of river runners Tad Nichols, Margaret Eiseman, P.T. Reilly, Kenneth Brownlee, James “Stretch” Fretwell and others are also on display.

The main exhibit in the atrium of Special Collections and Archives travels along the Colorado River via photographs arranged by river mile.

The main exhibit, located in the atrium of Special Collections and Archives on the second floor of Cline Library, is open to the public during Special Collections and Archives’ open hours.

Two smaller satellite exhibits feature additional images.  A display in the Scholars’ Corner coffee shop on the first floor of the library is available to view when the coffee shop is open.  The second is in Cline Library’s public exhibit space, which is on the east side of the Jean Collins Reading Room on the first floor of the library; it is available to view whenever the library is open.

The main exhibit in Special Collections and Archives provides an opportunity to view the “Images of a Lost World” exhibit and the space to contemplate it.

About NAU Cline Library Special Collections and Archives
Cline Library Special Collections and Archives connects and engages the world with the history and culture of the Colorado Plateau and Northern Arizona University. It also provides access to archival resources from regional cultural heritage partners such as the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Arizona Historical Society and Grand Canyon Historical Society.

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