Sometimes a little museum is more fun to visit than a large one. The Southwest is dotted with small museums set up by an individual or a small group who really wanted to tell people about something. These mini-gems of museums are worth the time and money. You may not learn a little about a lot, but you will probably come away with a deeper understanding of one particular thing. And that’s a heap of learning.
Iron Mission State Park and Museum features clothing, weapons, hunting tools and food preparation tools from the natives within the region as well as a collection of horse-drawn vehicles from the time before the car. 585 North Main, (435) 586-9290.
Outside Bryce on Hwy. 12, one of the greatest collections of wildlife in the west is displayed at the Paunsaugunt Wildlife Museum. The museum features local artifacts from humans as well as wildlife from around the world including birds of prey, bugs, fish from the seas, and over 1,400 butterflies in the finest butterfly collection in North America. A fallow deer lives at the museum. 945 W. Scenic Byway 12; (435) 834-5555.
The Southern Utah Air Museum in Washington near exit 10 off I-15 allows visitors to get into the cockpit of aircraft from the past 50 years as well as examine flight gear, instrument panels, nose sections from a variety of aircraft and dozens of related prints. 400 West Telegraph Road (across from the old Cotton Mill); (866) 663-8348.
A 1930s beet seed storage facility is now home to the St. George Art Museum. The growing collection of permanent exhibits is supplemented with local, regional and national traveling shows that display works in a variety of mediums. The Family Discovery Center gives kids a chance to test their artistic sensibilities. 175 East 200 North, (435) 674-4256.
The little town of Blanding boasts Blandings Dinosaur Museum, one of the largest collections of monster movie posters in the world and is also home to one of the foremost experts on feathered dinosaur. The History Hall of Hollywood Dinosaur Movies began as a personal collection that ran out of room and inspired a young boy to become a paleontologist. The museum also displays sculptures, skeletons and skin, as well as dinosaur eggs. 754 South 200 West, (435) 678-3454. Nearby, the Edge of the Cedars State Park offers a similar retrospective on the local Native American culture.
The Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum, in St. George, educates the public of the history and contribution that managed sport hunting provides for governments to provide protection for critical habitat and management of their wildlife resources. At the turn of the 19th century, hunters like Teddy Roosevelt became the first conservationists, but somewhere along the way, that link was broken into two non-intersecting sects. But over the past couple of decades those links have been re-forged.
Hunters are a common breed in Utah with a variety of big game to choose from, from bobcats to mountain lions to elk, moose, deer, buffalo and bighorn sheep. The also fish and hunt a variety of birds. What brought environmentalists and hunters together again was the growing understanding that you can’t protect a species without protecting its habitat and that there is a balance between predator, prey, water, food and migratory routes that keeps a species abundant enough to generate a hunting tag. This museum celebrates wild animals and their habitats.
Over 300 species of animals have been collected from all over the world and are displayed within recreations of their natural habitats. Hundreds of colorful and exotic insects and butterflies are also on display and the gift shop and art gallery offer paintings, photographs and memorabilia of wildlife from around the world. The Kids Room contains a full-size tree house, a reading nook and a variety of animal pelts that they can touch. 1835 Convention Center Drive; St. George; (435) 656-0033; adults $8, seniors $6, Children 3-12 $4, under 2 are free.