Fran and Terby Barnes Photo Archive: FAQ

The Moab Museum has recently undertaken the digitization of the extensive photo archive of longtime Moabites Fran and Terby Barnes. Curatorial & Collections Manager Tara Beresh addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about Fran and Terby, as well as their archives, now part of the Museum Collection.

Who were Fran and Terby Barnes?

Francis A. “Fran” Barnes (1922-2003) was an avid traveler and photographer who invested most of his life from 1965 onward devoted to documenting the natural wonders of the desert southwest surrounding Moab, Utah. Fran was also an accomplished writer, publishing scores of guide books as well as articles for outdoor magazines and columns for prominent newspapers. He was involved in local civic affairs, serving on the Grand County Travel Council and on the Bureau of Land Management’s Advisory Board. His writing accomplishments are punctuated by the popular Canyon Country series of 46 books, many of which were composed and self-published with the help of his wife, Terby Barnes. Terby was integral in managing Canyon Country Publications, serving on the board of the Moab Museum (then called the “Dan O’Laurie Museum”), contributing to the Canyon Legacy journal, and member of the Valley Voices Choir. She took over Canyon Country Publications upon Fran’s passing and managed it until her death in 2008.  It was Terby who donated the photograph collection and slides to the Moab Museum with the stipulation that the collection be used to “further the knowledge of the natural wonders of the Moab area.”

Each book in the Canyon Country series covers a topic uniquely related to the region, including off-road vehicle trail guides, mountain biking guides, botanical guides, geologic phenomena, paleontology, and cultural and archaeological history. Many of Fran and Terby’s books are still sold online and at local retail shops informing visitors and residents alike about the natural and cultural environment.

What is the Fran and Terby Barnes Photograph Archive?

The Fran and Terby Barnes Photograph Archive is a collection of over 50,000 photos in various formats ranging from color and black and white negatives and slides to large and small format developed images. The Moab Museum also retains as a part of this archive Barnes’ collected maps and both published and unpublished written works. The archive, with materials from approximately 1960 to 2008, is a priceless record of the region at a lesser developed time, with visual representation of history and the natural environment which current and future generations will not have the chance to witness.

Fran and Terby traveled each trail documented in their books at least a dozen times and gave names to places with none, such as the popular sites Blue Hills Road, Gemini Bridges, and Bull Canyon, all submitted to the Board of Geographic Names of the Department of the Interior. The Canyon Country Series has been cited by scientists with backgrounds in archaeology, geology, and paleontology, per the Deseret News (1995). The photographic portion of the Fran and Terby Barnes Archive supplements the subject matter in The Canyon Country Series. 

How is this archive historically significant to the area?

The Fran and Terby Barnes Photograph Archive is an invaluable display of the Barnes’ efforts to promote the history of Moab and the Four Corners region—a region that’s popularity has surpassed, in many towns (especially Moab) it’s infrastructure many times over in recent years. The collection highlights backcountry areas which are at risk due to commercial development and resource extraction. With this collection, the region, country, and international visitors and fans of Canyon Country may retain a permanent view of the region pre-development for generations to come. This permanent, visual record makes this archive historically significant not only to the Moab Museum, but to Southeastern Utah and the Four Corners region now and in the future.  

Why digitize the Fran and Terby Barnes Photograph Archive?

Digitizing the Fran and Terby Barnes Photograph Archive preserves the photos in perpetuity by making them available regardless of unforeseen threats to the original images. Should there be a natural disaster or otherwise, if transferred to a digital source, these images would not be lost to the public. Moab Museum’s collections database is also protected via storage in the cloud, should onsite technology be compromised. Digitization of The Fran and Terby Barnes Photograph Archive ensures that these historical records will not be lost to damage, harm, decay, or destruction.

How did the Museum begin this project?

The Moab Museum began this project in 2020 with a generous grant from the Utah State Historic Advisory Board and a fruitful partnership with the Special Collections Library at Southern Utah University. In 2020, we doubled our initial goal of scanning 10,000 images. A second phase may nearly complete the entire project. Once these photos are digitized and properly organized in the collections database, we will be able to share historic images with the public, use images to enhance current and future exhibits, and illustrate Moab’s history in special events held at the museum. It is our goal (alongside the Barnes’) that public access to these historically relevant, regionally specific images will inspire continued research (by local students, researchers and scientists near and far), and public interest in learning more about Canyon Country as well as the Natural Sciences.

The Moab Museum wishes to thank the Utah State Historic Advisory Board and Paula Mitchell, Special Collections Librarian at Southern Utah University, as well as Terry Barnes and David Vaughn for their contributions to the Museum, this project, and to the community.