60-Year Dream About to Open Its Doors

3/30/2021
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The Montezuma County Historical Society will soon be able to display its historical artifacts, photos, family histories, and other memorabilia in the new Montezuma Heritage Museum, a dream in the making for more than 60 years.

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Newcomers and long-time residents alike

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will soon be able to

learn about the people,

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places, and events that

shaped Montezuma County

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into the community that it is today.

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You're watching the Local News Network

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brought to you by Whole

Health Family Medicine

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and TruWest Auto.

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I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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The Montezuma County Historical Society

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will soon open the doors of its new,

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long-awaited history museum,

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thanks to $365,000 in donations

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from Southwest Colorado residents,

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business, and foundations.

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Located in the old Montezuma

County Social Services Office

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at 35 South Chestnut Street in Cortez,

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the museum will provide a permanent home

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for the society's collections

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of artifacts, historical photos,

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family histories, and other memorabilia.

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Long-time Society board members

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and fourth-generation

Montezuma County residents

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Ann Brown and David Everett

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said the museum represents

nearly 60 years of effort

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to find a location to tell

the community's story.

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My great-grandfather came here

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in the early years, right

after the civil war,

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helped to

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discover some of the cliff

dwellings at Mesa Verde,

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ran pack trips for

tourists up to Mesa Verde.

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He was the first elected

sheriff in the county.

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It's just home.

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We have roots that are

deep in this family,

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or in this county,

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and we want to help tell those stories.

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The Society's collections

have been on display,

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if you could call it that,

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in borrowed spaces since the 1950s,

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when they were first

tucked away in the basement

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of the old City Hall on Main Street.

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They've traveled to the library,

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then the Senior Center, to the basement

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of the former courthouse downtown,

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and to former granges.

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When the county built a new Justice Center

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and remodeled the old courthouse

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into an administration building,

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the Social Services

building became available,

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and the county agreed to a 30-year lease

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with the Historical Society for a dollar.

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That was in 2018,

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and fundraising began in earnest

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with Joe Keck and Ed

Meritt as campaign chairs.

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I have been raising funds for museums

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and historic sites for 40 years.

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I have never encountered a more supportive

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community and area before, never.

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It's been amazing.

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The building will have a meeting space

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for presentations,

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rooms for both permanent

and rotating displays,

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and storage for archives and artifacts.

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Design elements include a color palette

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that reflects the Southwest

Colorado environment

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and wood from an old flume

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that once carried irrigation

water into the valley.

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This wood is leftover from the flume

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out east of Cortez.

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The Historic Preservation Board

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went work with the Historical Society

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to restore that flume.

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There were 100 of them throughout

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the Irrigation District.

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This was number 60,

out by the fairgrounds.

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This wood was leftover,

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so we were able to pick

up some of that wood

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and use it throughout our building,

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our reception desk and

this archway, and then

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there is a frame of flume wood

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around the entrance to our meeting room.

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The Historical Society,

with the assistance

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of a professional museum designer,

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will spend the summer planning

and installing displays

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that will tell the Montezuma County story,

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from the ancestral Puebloans,

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to the native peoples who

next inhabited the region,

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to the Spanish explorers, miners,

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cattle ranchers, and pioneers.

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We still have 35,000 to go.

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Any of the money that comes in now

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is going to transform this empty building,

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transform all the walls, every corner

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into a real, hopefully compelling museum

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that really tells the stories,

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all the stories, of Montezuma County

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and kind of the surrounding area too.

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You can make a donation

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to help preserve

Montezuma County's history

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at the museum's website

at montezumamuseum.org.

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The museum is expected to open

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with all its displays by late summer.

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In the meantime, the public

will have an opportunity

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to see the work completed

on the building to date

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with a sneak peak on Saturday, May 22nd.

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Thanks for watching

the Local News Network,

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serving Montezuma County,

Durango, Pagosa Springs,

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Telluride, and Farmington, New Mexico.

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I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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