The Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition (RBMVE) in Four Corners was named for the 3000-square-mile region encompassed by Rainbow Bridge, the largest natural bridge in the world, and for Monument Valley, with its iconic sandstone “monuments” made famous in countless westerns and car commercials. The purpose of the expedition: an in-depth study to establish a large National Monument and to give scientists and students field experience.
In the 1930s, against the backdrop of the Great Depression, an intrepid group of archaeologists, ethnologists, scientists, artists, filmmakers, Native American guides, and others collaborated on what would become known as the last of the great expeditions. Ansel Hall, a charismatic National Park Service educator, brought people from all walks of life to the canyons to participate in a vast six-year study of the region’s natural and human history. Their work yielded a trove of extraordinary material that includes ancient Native American artifacts, photographs, documentary film, glass lantern slides, personal diaries, and much more. The expedition made significant contributions to science and history, and had an enduring impact upon the lives of this diverse group who lived and worked together in those rugged summer months. Relationships formed between the communities living on the land and the expedition, and stories passed down to the present, written and oral.
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Local Native Women
BEYOND THE EXPEDITION Ansel Hall steadily produced press releases with expedition updates, garnering popular coverage of many key participants. Martin Gambee, an artist on staff, exhibited his works that featured the wonders of the Southwest. Everett Reuss, a celebrated young artist and poet, worked sporadically on the expedition and drew most of his inspiration from the lonely landscape and local characters. Ford Motor Company and Hall promoted the idea of tourism in remote areas of the U.S. Ford used the project to advertise its new V-8 engine, contributing a fleet of its trucks to Hall while featuring the expedition as the centerpiece for its advertising campaign. Ford also provided a filmmaker to capture the V-8 engines in action to inspire Americans to pack their children into the new family Ford and explore the wonders of America—wonders that had rarely been seen except by the elite or the adventuresome.