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Montezuma County Historical Society’s collections need new home

Collection storage in limbo as county/city reshuffle

The Montezuma County Historical Society is in a game of musical chairs as Cortez and county officials prepare to move into new offices and sell old ones.

The historical society depended on City Hall to store its collections in the basements of City Hall and the county half of the Justice Center.

The society recently moved the large collection out of the City Hall basement, as city officials prepare to sell the Main Street building and move into its offices at 123 N. Roger Smith Ave.

“We had to move that collection into a storage facility,” said Ann Brown, chairwoman of the historical society.

Storage in county space also is uncertain.

The county is building a combined courthouse on Driscoll Street, next to the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, and plans to divest its half of the Main Street Justice Center, leaving the historical collection stored there in limbo.

The moves come as the historical society embarks on a couple of projects. It plans to start up a Facebook page and a website, and will soon release a brochure featuring a self-guided tour of the seven, 100-year-old ranches in Montezuma County. It also is seeking funding for acid-free boxes to store a large collection of photographic slides and negatives and is preparing a grant application to obtain a curator for museum planning.

The former county museum closed in 1967.

“Since then, the display cases and collections have become spread out,” Brown said, including in the halls of District Court and the Johnson Building on South Broadway.

Some of the stored historical items include an 1890s horse-drawn seed planter, a huge bellows from a blacksmith shop, and a wooden WWI propeller.

A 2013 tour of the storage areas showed an array of interesting archives, stacks of uncatalogued boxes full of relics and documents, volumes of old photos and pioneer innovations such as a button-maker and an early electric washing machine.

Bank records from J.H. Harris, one of the county’s first businesses, family histories, and original newspaper negatives are important documents for genealogy studies, said historian June Head.

“Part of a having a museum is to provide research for family history, and we have a lot of that information from 100 years ago, but no place to offer it for the public,” Head said. “It is important to inform and educate the newer generation about our roots.”

For now, historical items such as WWII uniforms from an all-women U.S. Navy unit, dinosaur fossils, classic farm implements, Victrolas and Native American artifacts are all collecting dust in the dark, waiting to tell their story.

The Montezuma County Historical Society is a nonprofit 501-C3, organization. It is looking for volunteers and grant writers.

For more information, call chairwoman Ann Brown at 970-565-2747 or send a note to P.O. Box 218, Cortez, Colorado, 81321.


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