Museum Director Dismissed After 32 Years, Uintah County Cites Budget

Nov 4, 2013

After 32 years working for Uintah County, Western Heritage Museum director Evan Baker has been dismissed from his position. Baker has served as director of the museum for the last eight years, and said he unexpectedly received a letter telling him his position had been eliminated under county budget changes.

A display of objects at the Western Heritage Museum in Vernal.
A display of objects at the Western Heritage Museum in Vernal.
Credit Uintah County Western Heritage Museum

“This is my last day. I’m through at 5 [p.m.]…Personally, I’m upset. It totally blindsided me,” Baker said.

The Western Heritage Museum’s collection includes artifacts and displays on pioneers, Native Americans and other early settlers of the Uintah Basin. The museum is set to change locations in Vernal, and its contents were being cataloged by Baker.

Baker said he doesn’t know who will take over the moving process and the sudden change has made him worried about the museum’s contents.

“I’m worried and concerned for the collection and the safety and completeness of the catalog,” Baker said.

The Uintah County Commission told reporters that the library, museum and history center will be combined into a community cultural center that will be headed by one leader.

Library director Sam Passey said the county determined other county employees would be able to complete the cataloging process.

“We have four employees in our Regional History Center. We feel that they have some similar training. There may be a learning curve and some growing pains ahead of time, but we felt that our current staff would be able to serve the need of the museum and history center,” Passey said.

Baker, the only employee to have lost his job in the restructuring so far, said he feels like the decision was personal and that he was singled out.

“Well, I don’t know that they’re saving money or if that’s the purpose, but that’s the excuse they’re using,” Baker said.

Passey said the decision had nothing to do with competence, but instead was made to preserve funding for museum exhibits.

Baker said he’ll be sad to leave the museum that is “close to my heart.” Baker does not have immediate plans for the future; he is three years short of receiving his Social Security benefits from the state.