After decades in limbo, the Montezuma County Historical Society moved into its new headquarters on Friday.
More than a dozen people worked to load the society’s collection of artifacts from the basement of the Montezuma County Justice Center into trucks to be transported to the Lake Vista Grange Hall, also known as Lake View Community Center, at 28571 County Road M. The group has spent several months cleaning out the almost 90-year-old building, but members said they still have a lot of work to do before it can become a museum. For now, it will serve as a storage building and a location for the group’s monthly meetings.
On Friday morning, volunteers with the historical society and a few day laborers from the Bridge Emergency Shelter rummaged through boxes of old newspapers, trunks filled with antique clothing and crates of Native American pottery and many other artifacts, most of which haven’t been displayed publicly since the county museum closed in 1967. Society members like volunteer curator Joyce Lawrence labeled each box with notes announcing its contents and where they would go in the new location.
Most of the historical society’s artifacts have been stored in the Justice Center’s basement since 2003, though others have been put in storage sheds or even on display at the Cortez Cultural Center. At Lake View, they’ll all be collected in one place, which Lawrence said is a big step for her organization.
“It’ll be much easier, because things will be better organized,” she said.
The society is getting additional old items all the time, she said, and many haven’t been properly dated or cataloged. Some of their oldest items include issues of the Cortez Journal date back to the 1890s, and a few of the documents are so delicate they need to be stored in a freezer to prevent mold. Eventually the society hopes to create digital archives of the documents and put their other artifacts on public display again.
“Ideally, they’d like to make it a museum, but right now it’s just not set up to be one,” said Paige Hart, a history student at Fort Lewis College who helped with the move. “Eventually ... that would be cool, but we’ll see.”
The Lake View hall was built in 1928 and has housed a school and a women’s group during its history, Lawrence said. Years of disuse in recent times have taken their toll on the building, though, mostly in the form of dust, insects and mice. Lawrence said the society hired a cleaning service to get rid of these pests, but to be safe, the artifacts will be kept in secure containers and away from the floor for now. On Thursday, society member Ann Brown said she was considering a grant application to repair a wall at the Lake View hall and make it harder for mice to get in.
The Montezuma County Historical Society held its first meeting at Lake View on July 11. The group meets for lunch on the second Tuesday of every month.