“Save our history. Tell our stories” is the motto of the future Montezuma Heritage Museum, and a fundraising campaign has begun to make it a reality.
A kickoff event for the effort will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 11 at the new museum at 35 S. Street Chestnut in Cortez.
A short program on the museum project, tours of the building, refreshments, a blessing by the Ute Mountain Tribe, and music by The Lindells will be offered.
The Montezuma County Historical Society has been working for years to bring back a museum to Cortez, which has not had one since the 1950s. The society has an impressive collection of stored artifacts, but the small nonprofit has lacked funding for a museum location.
In 2018, the plan got a major boost when the county commissioners donated a long-term lease for the museum in the 4,800 square-foot former social services building, part of the county complex in downtown Cortez.
“It’s the perfect building and location, with plenty of parking,” said Ann Brown, historical society board president.
The fundraising campaign has a goal of $275,000 to pay for the remodeling and front facade. So far $91,000 has been raised.
The capital campaign organizers are Ed Merritt, Joe Keck, Vivian and Phil Kenyon, and Barbara Stagg.
An architect has developed design that includes a reception area, exhibit space, museum store, archive and genealogy section, curation and research area, assembly and meeting rooms, and audio-visual area. The building will include an outdoor patio as well and murals on the outside wall.
The museum will tell the story of Montezuma County, including the history of the Native Americans, Hispanic, and pioneer cultures. It will feature archeology, Western heritage, explorers, irrigation and agriculture, the railroad, industry, the environment, mining and logging, the Dolores Project, recreation, plus more.
“There will not be enough room to display all we have, so new exhibits will be rotated in,” Brown said.
A core group of about 20 volunteers have been doing the initial demolition work, Brown said, removing most of the doors, walls and ceilings that made up the building’s 24 small offices. So far, 400 hours of volunteer work has been logged on the remodel. Volunteers are being sought to help with renovations.
A feasibility study was completed that included surveys, fundraising outreach, building inspections, architectural plans and artist renderings of the remodeled building.
“We are thrilled with the early donation and pledge support received from county residents and businesses,” Brown said. “We hope hundreds more county and area residents will help make the long dream of a county history museum a reality with their input and financial support. No donation is too small.”
A donor recognition wall will be just inside the front door, and there are also opportunities for donors to have permanent plaques inside.
Two large donations have been made, including one for $10,000 and one for $22,000. The historical society has pitched in $30,000 from its budget. Onward! awarded the project a $3,000 grant this year, and the Ballantine Family Foundation donated $5,000 last year that paid for the architect and feasibility study.
The Historical Society is has applied for grants from the Gates Foundation, El Pomar, the Ballantine Family Foundation, Empire Electric, and Wal-Mart Inc..
A museum committee is being formed to help figure out what the different exhibits will be. The board will be representative of the different cultures, and include curation professionals, historians, and professionals in local industry. An expert in museum displays will likely be sought for the final exhibit designs and layouts.
Once enough money is raised, the remodel project will be put out to bid for contractors. The plan is to have the museum completed and open by 2020.
A garage sale in front of the new museum from 8 a.m. to noon Friday, May 3, will be held to sell off items from the remodel project such as windows, doors, lumber and insulation. Prices will be affordable.
To donate to the museum or volunteer contact Barbara Stagg at (970) 570-7333, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ann Brown at (970) 565-2747, email@example.com.