The Estes Park Museum cultivates a passion for Estes Park history by conducting activities that preserve, share and respect the unique history of our community. While municipal museums are not unheard of, they are not necessarily common either. In fact, I am often asked why the Town operates a local history museum. From a purely pragmatic perspective, the Town runs the Museum because we agreed to do so after being asked to in 1992 by the nonprofit running the Museum at that time. However, there is a more fundamental reason the Town spends public dollars on this service: community identity.
The artifacts and information collected and exhibited by the Museum are a way of preserving and sharing the stories that have played a significant role in creating the community that we know and love today. These are the stories of the people, organizations, and events that have shaped Estes Park and their preservation ensures that our town’s sense of self can be strongly rooted in a shared history. Given the important task of preserving these stories, the Town has a responsibility to ensure that information and artifacts are collected and protected now and into the future.
The quality of any Museum relies heavily on the quality of the people that manage and support it. We are fortunate in Estes Park to have three professionally trained staff (a director and two curators), a supportive Estes Park Museum Friends and Foundation Board, and a large cadre of well-trained and passionate volunteers that keep our Museum running smoothly. These talented staff members and volunteers have their hands full with three cornerstones of Museum operations: (1) managing the collection, (2) taking care of Museum properties, and (3) creating educational programming and exhibits.
A museum’s collection is the foundation for everything that it does. The Estes Park Museum cares for over 30,000 locally significant artifacts - varying in size from a postcard to an authentic Stanley Steamer – and receives new donations every year! The collection is constantly growing as every day that passes adds more history to our town, and more items of historical significance to collect.
Caring for artifacts and managing the acceptance of new donations is only part of the job. The Museum is also responsible for managing and maintaining five properties (the Gallery, the Collections Annex, the Historic Fall River Hydroplant, the Birch Cabin and the Birch Ruins) and presenting educational programming for the general public. Each of the properties managed and maintained by the Museum plays an important role in preserving and sharing local history: the Gallery serves as the main exhibit space; the Collections Annex is where the artifacts are stored and cared for; and the Historic Fall River Hydroplant, Birch Cabin, and Birch Ruins are exhibits unto themselves and represent important pieces of the history of Estes Park.
The final operational cornerstone for the Museum is the creation of educational programming and exhibits. These elements of the museum experience give residents and guests the opportunity to explore local history and artifacts in a more in-depth manner. Programming and exhibits help to tie the artifacts in the collection with the stories and meaning behind them, creating richer stories about the people, organizations, and events that have laid the foundation for our community.
Whether you are a local, a longtime visitor, or are experiencing our community for the first time, I strongly encourage you to visit the Museum and learn a bit more about the vibrant history of Estes Park. Museum staff and volunteers are always learning more about Estes Park and always have more to share with those who stop by. The Museum Gallery, located at 200 Fourth Street, is open year-round, Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See you there!