For the first time since the 1950s, Montezuma County will have space for a museum, and this time, it is an entire building.
The Montezuma Heritage Museum will be at 35 S. Chestnut St., and is expected to open this winter, said Ann Brown, president of the Montezuma County Historical Society.
The 4,800-square-foot building was donated by the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners to the historical society under a no-charge lease. The historical society will be responsible for paying utilities of about $7,000 per year. The space was previously the home of county social services, which recently relocated to a larger office.
“It will be exciting to see this happen. A museum is something our community has needed for some time,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel.
The museum will include display areas, research and education rooms, a community meeting room and storage. The genealogy archive of the Montezuma County Daughters of the American Revolution will also have a space at the museum.
The single-floor building has energy-efficient geothermal heating and cooling system, accessible bathrooms and parking for visitors.
On Monday, the lease was signed, and the keys were handed over.
“We are so proud. Now we can tell the story of Montezuma County for locals and visitors,” Brown said. “It will be staffed by volunteers, and there will be a small fee to help cover expenses.”
The plan is to have a small store at the museum to sell locally made goods, books and memorabilia to help raise money for operations.
The historical society will seek grants to help pay for operations and do renovations. Local fundraising has improved since the announcement was made about the new location.
“The community has stepped up,” Brown said.
A capital campaign and outreach program are being planned to help finance the museum long-term. A community dinner will be held in August to raise money and gather local input on what people would like to see displayed in the museum. A date is pending.
The museum will feature the history of the cultures and groups of the area, including the Ute Mountain Utes, pioneers and Hispanics. The region’s agriculture, logging, mining and irrigation, railroad history will also be highlighted.
The county’s historic collection currently is being stored at the Lake Vista Grange Hall. Volunteers, curators and archivists have been sorting and cataloging the collection in preparation for display.
“We’re also gathering collections and display cases spread out around the county,” said curator Joyce Lawrence.
Some of the stored historical items include an 1890s horse-drawn seed planter, a huge bellows from a blacksmith shop and a wooden World War II propeller. There are classic farm relics, original maps, dinosaur fossils, historic war memorabilia and an old Victrola.
The collection include volumes of old photos, relics, and documents of Montezuma County history. There are family and business histories, newspaper archives and pioneer innovations such as a button-maker and early electric washing machine. The collection also has artifacts from the Ancestral Puebloans, including pots, metates, manos and arrowheads.
The historical society board meets the second Tuesday of every month. The next meeting will be held at the new museum location on July 10 at 11:30 a.m.. For more information, visit the historical society website at www.historicalsocietymontezuma.org or call Ann Brown at 970-565-2747.