85 N 100 E Fairview, Utah
Fairview, Utah is along US-89, 95 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Flanked by the Manti-La Sal National Forest and burrowed into the Sanpete Valley, Fairview got its start as a Mormon settlement in the mid-1800's. Unlike Carbon County with its coal mines and immigrant populations, Fairview has remained a predominately Mormon influenced, agricultural town. This longstanding agricultural legacy is evident in the grazing sheep, open fields and flatbed trucks pulling into the gas stations.
A block off of US-89/State St. is the Fairview Museum of History and Art. The museum is housed in two buildings: the Heritage Pioneer History Building (a 115-year-old school house) and the Horizon Arts Building. While the two buildings are different in era and architecture, the content within them easily talks back and forth. Between both of them is a conversation steeped in town pride, history and art.
The ground floor of the Horizon building is dominated by a life-size cast of a Columbian Mammoth. The original mammoth was found in 1988, eighteen miles east of town. The mammoth stands as one of the few artifacts in the building, with the majority of the walls displaying decades worth of artwork from local and regional artists. The salon style arrangement becomes a web of family connections with the luck that a local might be there to guide you through them. The American artist Avard Tennyson Fairbanks nationally grounds the collection with sculptures. Fairbanks's sculptures continue to make appearances across the walkway in the Heritage building. Sitting on tables or backed by lace doilies, they add a formal note to the historical relics and personal recollections displayed in each of the Heritage rooms.
Hidden in the back of the ground floor of the Horizon building is a hand-drawn map of Fairview. In 1995, Whitford and Verda Amundsen made a map of all of the houses and residents that Whit remembered during his lifetime (1908-2001). Preserved, framed and placed in the museum, the map becomes an intimate display of one man's recollections. The squares aren't merely placeholders for buildings; they show houses becoming homes. The map is a memory that is only solidified because it got put on paper and preserved for the public to see. Like Fairbanks statues, this map is repeated countless times in the Heritage building. Not in actual form, but in a similar spirit of stories and artifacts that celebrate everyday people in the community.
Everything in the Heritage building shares intimacy, whether in space or in context. As a previous schoolhouse, the rooms circle around the center of the building, with each one providing countless vignettes of Fairview lives. There are small triumphs over hardship like the portrait room filled with pioneers and settlers. There are celebrations of long honed skills like the tatted lace and weaving looms. There are personal photos of the "World Class Whistler" and Caroline Turpin's 115-quilt hobby show. Collectively they may not be the stories that appear in history books, but they are foundations of what makes this community both in the past and the present. Seeing them under the umbrella of a museum is like seeing art in a gallery. If it's there, we accept it as something worthy of consideration. That's what makes small-town museums like this one so fundamentally important: they honor a history and narrative derived directly from the people who live there. It's homegrown with the possibility that anyone's artifact or recollection can have a place at the table.