Tread of Pioneers celebrates grand reopening in expanded museum
Steamboat Springs — There will be a buzz in the air at the Tread of Pioneers Museum during Saturday’s public open house to show off the more than $1 million museum expansion. In addition to the new digs, there are some eye-opening new items in the collection.
The primary purpose of the expansion was to create an archival safe collection building where the museum’s collection of pioneer, Native American and ski history artifacts as well as many historic documents safely can be stored in a climate-controlled surrounding for the first time.
“It’s been 10 years in the making,” museum Director Candice Bannister said. “Our first grant in 2003 was to investigate the condition of the old house” that formerly stored the museum’s collection.
That house has given way to a modern building with historic appeal designed by architect Eric Smith. Its exterior reflects many of the historic design elements endemic to Old Town Steamboat Springs, but on the inside, it has an ultra-clean interior and a mechanical lift in addition to ample work space for museum curator Katie Adams to assemble new exhibits.
The fluorescent lights are fitted with ultraviolet filters, and the temperature in the collections building never strays from the range of 60 to 67 degrees.
“It’s the fluctuations in temperature that can cause (artifacts) to expand and contract, damaging them,” Adams said.
Much of the buzz Saturday will be produced by the expanded exhibition space including the new Jayne Hill Gallery for rotating exhibits, the expanded Ski Town USA exhibit and the Steamboat Springs exhibit.
Visitors will find several recent and significant additions to the collection, including a copy of the 1843 book “Travels in the Great Western Prairies” by Thomas Jefferson Farnham, who made the earliest recorded visit to the future Steamboat Springs in 1839 via the area now known as Egeria Park.
Farnham camped near Finger Rock in South Routt, discovered Steamboat’s sulfur cave and made another camp with fur trappers on the Elk River.
Paul Knowles, a relatively new addition to the museum board, set an alert on his smartphone about two weeks ago to let him know if the hard-to-find book ever turned up for sale.
“It popped up for $250, and that was a no-brainer,” Knowles said. He immediately purchased it, and the book now on display under Plexiglas at the museum is in remarkable condition.
Everyone who has visited the Tread of Pioneers has admired the reproduction prints of the famous Carl Howelsen Barnum & Bailey circus poster, which are for sale in the museum store. Knowles recently was able, with the support of Howelsen Place, to purchase a rare original copy of the poster showing Howelsen ski jumping under the big top.
Board member Lore Marvin said Knowles is a good example of how the museum board of directors can extend the capabilities of the museum staff.
“We don’t have a big staff and the board has to support the museum staff,” Marvin said.
No board member has gone further in that mission than Jim Peterson, who spent many hours on the construction site as the client’s representative, Bannister said.
He, along with John Marshall and Mike Cook, even remodeled the front reception area of the museum by hand.
A new era has begun at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, and board member John Wither reflected on how the museum campus has changed since the 1908 Victorian Zimmerman House was moved to the corner of Eight and Oak streets in 1988.
When it originally was built by Earnest Campbell, it stood three blocks away where the parking lot of the Routt County Courthouse is today.
History rarely stands still.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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