In 1967 an artist named Robert Miller hand-carved a scale model of Glen Canyon. The enormous topographical map stood in the visitor center in Page for half a century, before it was dismantled and packed into storage. But a local artist decided to seize the chance to bring the map back to its former glory. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with Pat Talbott about the restoring the historic work of art, now on display at the Glen Canyon Natural History Association in Page.
SEVIGNY: What it ever tricky for you to tell what needed to be repaired and what was part of the original map?
TALBOTT: Yes, actually! People had dropped, oh my gosh, cameras, phones, whatever they had in their hands, they had dropped into the map. This is foam, so it would dink it, and there would be these divots. Some looked like they were supposed to be there. There’s one perfectly round hole that I knew was the sinkhole down in Marble Canyon. But I would also check Google Maps just to make sure. That was an amazing thing, when you think that this guy carved this using topo maps, his name was Robert Miller, and he did this in 1967, so there was no Google Maps back then. The colors, he gathered sand and different colors from different areas to make it real. It’s mindboggling, it truly is.
SEVIGNY: So tell me a little bit about the process of refurbishing it, that’s got to be pretty delicate work!
TALBOTT: It was. Mostly dusting first, with clean paintbrushes, I had large ones and little ones that fit into the little canyon areas, and then I started filling in the seams, where it came apart in seven pieces. In the process of starting to fill these crevasses, the seams, I saw some spots… and I said, oh I better clean that. I was starting to sponge the map, and as I did, I couldn’t believe it—the colors started to come up. As I got the grime off, colors that I had never seen before popped up.
SEVIGNY: What other tools have you been using besides paintbrushes?
TALBOTT: This is kind of embarrassing to say, I had this old—you wouldn’t even know what it is, it’s called an orange stick…
SEVIGNY: I don’t know!
TALBOTT: Well, it’s something that was used to push back cuticles and clean your fingernails. I had one, gosh, this thing must be 30 years old, and I’ve been using that primarily to fill in these crevasses. There was pieces that were missing, so I had to reconstruct it. With that little flat edge I was able to work in this clay into the crevasses very delicately.
SEVIGNY: Pat, do you remember the very first time you saw this map?
TALBOTT: Yes, I do. 1994 I came to visit my friend Kathy who lived here. And she took us to all the special places, the dam, and we looked at the map. I remember being so impressed by it. That trip was the trip that sold me on Page. I went home and told my husband, “Frank, I found it, I found the place I want to live the rest of my life.” And I became a park ranger. I lived my dream.
SEVIGNY: And it sounds like working on this map has been a dream come true as well.
TALBOTT: It has. It has. It was a labor of love and I’m just so proud of it.
SEVIGNY: Pat, thanks so much for talking today.
TALBOTT: Thank you, Melissa, I appreciate it.