Seven Colorado his­tor­i­cal mu­se­ums that echo the past

The Denver Post - - TRAVEL - Ou­ray County Mu­seum San Juan County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety Mu­seum Buena Vista Her­itage Mu­seum Fron­tier His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and Mu­seum Frisco His­toric Park and Mu­seum Mu­seum of the West Gun­ni­son Pi­o­neer Mu­seum

Ihave a pen­chant for the past. Out in the wild, I en­joy ex­plor­ing ghost towns and aban­doned mine sites. Stuck in civ­i­liza­tion, I like to ex­plore his­toric mu­se­ums, es­pe­cially those lo­cated in Colorado’s moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties. Here are a few of my fa­vorites.

The mu­seum oc­cu­pies what was once a Sis­ters of Mercy Hos­pi­tal. Rooms de­pict doc­tor, lawyer and den­tist of­fices, among oth­ers, and there’s a jail cell com­plete with a stuffed pris­oner. My wife, a re­tired nurse, likes the op­er­at­ing room dis­play where the anes­thetic of the day was ether and whiskey. The base­ment level de­picts a mine whose rock and min­eral col­lec­tion in­cludes flu­o­res­cent stones shim­mer­ing un­der ul­travi­o­let light. It sets my black­light mem­o­ries from the ‘70s aglow. 420 Sixth Ave., Ou­ray, 970-325-4576, ouray­coun­ty­his­tor­i­cal­so­ci­ety.org Lo­cated in Sil­ver­ton, the mu­seum ex­pe­ri­ence be­gins at what was once a three-story jail that in­cludes a walk-in cell with shack­les. A tun­nel leads to the Min­ing Her­itage Cen­ter, where dis­plays show how min­eral ex­trac­tion has evolved through the years. My fa­vorite was the potty car from a nearby mine, which con­sisted of an ore cart with an out­house-wor­thy hole cut in its top. 1557 Greene St., Sil­ver­ton, 970-387-5838, san­juan­coun­ty­his­tor­i­cal­so­ci­ety.org

Oc­cu­py­ing the for­mer Chafee County Court­house, the mu­seum’s lower level fea­tures an ar­ray of his­toric ar­ti­facts and a recre­ated school class­room. Up­stairs, a model rail­way de­picts 140-miles of the Up­per Arkansas Val­ley be­tween Leadville and Royal Gorge. Built by the lo­cal model train club, it dis­plays minia­ture build­ings and peo­ple in amaz­ing de­tail. There’s a boy’s tree­house bear­ing a “no girls al­lowed” sign and a bear sneak­ing up on a man caught with his pants down. I’ll bet he wished he had one of those potty cars. 506 East Main St., Buena Vista, 719-395-8458, bue­nav­is­ta­her­itage.org/ her­itage-mu­seum Lo­cated in Glen­wood Springs, the mu­seum oc­cu­pies an his­toric brick home com­plete with a re­stored liv­ing room, din­ing room, bed­rooms and kitchen. Hang­ing on a wall is a short bi­og­ra­phy of Kid Curry, a one­time mem­ber of Butch Cas­sidy’s Wild Bunch. Fac­ing cap­ture, the Kid killed him­self; he lies buried in Glen­wood’s Rose­bud Ceme­tery, a place which my wife re­gret­fully de­clared she was “dy­ing to see.” 1001 Colorado Ave., Glen­wood Springs, 970-9454448, vis­it­glen­wood.com/thingsto-do/cul­tural-his­tor­i­cal/ The park lies at the quiet end of Main Street, with the main mu­seum oc­cu­py­ing a one­time school­house orig­i­nally built as a sa­loon. Be­yond the school­house lies vin­tage build­ings re­lo­cated from other lo­ca­tions. Walk­ing around is like ex­plor­ing a ghost town, ex­cept here there are no cracked boards, bro­ken glass or res­i­dent poltergeists to deal with. 120 Main St., 970-668-3428, townof­frisco.com/play/his­toric­park-and-mu­seum/gen­eral-info/ Lo­cated in down­town Grand Junc­tion, this stands as the largest mu­seum be­tween Salt Lake City and Den­ver. Dis­plays range from pre­his­toric In­dian and Span­ish colo­nial ar­ti­facts to de­vices from the 20th-cen­tury ura­nium boom. They tell us that modern-day ura­nium prospec­tors have bor­rowed some of their ’50s vin­tage Geiger counter gear to learn how it works. That alone gives the mu­seum a glow­ing rec­om­men­da­tion. 462 Ute Ave., 970-242-0971, mu­se­u­mofwest­ernco.com/ mu­seum-of-the-west/) Un­like mu­se­ums that fea­ture or­derly dis­plays of well la­beled ar­ti­facts, this sprawl­ing mu­seum of­fers an ar­ray of build­ings stuffed with stuff. My fa­vorite is the car col­lec­tion fea­tur­ing au­to­mo­biles rang­ing from Model-a Fords to MG road­sters and Kennedy-era Lin­colns. My wife, whose fa­ther worked for Bell Tele­phone, loved the tele­phone ex­hibit. Su­per­man must have also liked it. He left his suit and cape in one of the phone booths. 803 E. Tomichi Ave., 970-641-4530, gun­nison­pioneer­mu­seum.com

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