Utah State Parks has awarded Jonathan Till, curator of the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum, in Blanding, as the 2020 employee of the year.
Till is a well-known archaeologist in the Four Corners area and resides in Bluff, Utah. Since 2015, he has been the curator at Edge of the Cedars, which features Native American culture and art with an emphasis on Ancestral Puebloans.
Till previously worked for Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez and Navajo Nation Archaeology Department, and has a weekly music show on KSJD radio.
In an April 9 email to The Journal, Till responded to questions about receiving the award and his efforts at the museum in southeast Utah.
The employee of the year award was announced during the annual Utah State Parks employee meeting held in March on Zoom with 150 people tuning in.
“It was quite unexpected and a big honor. I’m grateful for the respect and trust that comes with the honor,” Till stated. “I’d like to think that this award means that I’m performing my job ably, representing the state of Utah well, and serving the public in meaningful and useful ways.”
In 2020, Till oversaw cataloging of several big collections. One of the collections hails from a big alcove site in the Comb Ridge area, and includes many perishable items, such as a large cache of black beans, an 8,000-year-old sandal, and a set of wooden gaming pieces that look like flat dice.
Another collection is from a 1,300-year-old pithouse site excavated in Blanding.
“Being able to catalog these collections lets us make these items for searchable for students,” Till said.
He is endlessly fascinated by “the universe” that is Southwest archaeology, and loves to educate himself and the public about it.
As a museum curator, he especially appreciates the networking required with Native Americans and archaeologists to better understand artifacts and cultural sites.
“My job allows me to work with some amazing and interesting people. And those collaborations allow me to turn around and pass that knowledge on to the public, another joy for me,” he said. “I love the deep history of this place. It’s a real pleasure for me to consider that history with folks who also want to turn that over in their heads and hearts.”
Edge of the Cedars remained open during the pandemic, but visitation dropped drastically, Till said.
Fewer volunteers was also a challenge because the museum relies on them to help run the museum and activities.
The museum applied for and was awarded two CARES grants that allowed it to hire two experienced archaeologists to help catalog larger collections.
In 2021, Edge of the Cedars is planning facility upgrades. Heating and cooling units will be replaced along with museum carpeting. The carpet replacement will require the museum to close temporarily.
The museum also plans to replace the heavily weathered outdoor sign that interprets the Edge of the Cedars Pueblo to the visiting public.
During the remodel, Till plans to change out many of the displays with items that are currently in the archives. The museum is expecting to receive a few large collections this year and is looking forward to researching and sharing them with the public, he said.
In an April email to The Journal, Chris Hanson, director of Edge of the Cedars State Park and Site manager for Goosenecks State Park, praised Till for the “recognition he is getting for the great work he does.”
“Anyone who has had the pleasure to work with Jonathan knows what an invaluable asset he is to the Edge of the Cedars and to the SW archaeology community as a whole,” states a March 26 Edge of the Cedars Facebook page. “If you’ve been lucky enough to have met Jonathan while visiting Edge of the Cedars State Park, you know that this honor is well deserved!”
Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum is located at 660 West 400 North Street in Blanding, Utah.