“Our Mission is to take care of our rich and colorful history, to interpret it and to protect it," explained Kay Fiegel, assistant director for the Museum of Western Colorado.
Western Colorado is full of wonders, but not all are places you can visit. Some are small enough to hold in your hand. That's where the Museum of Western Colorado comes in.
I spoke with Fiegel about the Museum's different sites in the Grand Valley.
“You know, here in Western Colorado, we have a very rich and colorful history. we go back to the prehistoric times with fossils and bones and all sorts of different things out at our Dinosaur Journey museum. Here, (at the Museum of the West) it is the Wild West. And at our Cross Orchards Historic Site which will be opening the first part of May, it’s the agricultural heritage of the area.”
At the Museum of the West in downtown Grand Junction, a variety of Western Colorado's smaller wonders are housed and displayed, including Native American rock art & pottery, elements of the old West and even local history.
The Museum also oversees Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, where I met up with curator and paleontologist, John Foster.
“All of Western Colorado has a pretty unique biological history," Foster explained. "Some of the biggest and smallest dinosaurs anywhere in the world are found here.”
Foster told of the discovery of the first Brachiosaurus around the turn of the century right in the Grand Valley.
“We actually find dinosaurs right within Grand Junction city limits and in Fruita and really close to where people live," which according to him, is quite unique.
It's not just the Grand Valley, though. The entire region has an abundance of fossils.
“This place really crawling with dinosaur and other fossil material and we try to showcase that here and show people basically the biological history of western Colorado and eastern Utah," Foster said. "People were finding material almost as soon as Grand Junction got laid out as a city. As soon as people started farming here, they started noticing the material, so it goes back to the 1880s.”
Dinosaur Journey came into existence because of the area's rich fossil history. Today, visitors can see casts and skeletons of creatures of the past as well as live versions of modern descendents.
It's not all for show, however. Active research and preservation are ongoing at Dinosaur Journey, all in view of the visiting public.
“Well, I think one of the most important things about this part of the museum, having it here is hopefully it gets kids excited about science in general," said Foster. "Kids obviously love dinosaurs but the story we’re trying to tell here is really the history of the Earth, both geologically and biologically in this area.”
“This tells the story of our past," explained Fiegel of the museum system. "And it’s important that we share that and it’s important that people bring their kids so that they can experience it and appreciate it as well.”
The buildings that house the museum may not be considered Wonders of the Western Slope, but the contents certainly are.
Coming in May, Dinosaur Journey will feature a new prehistoric crocodile exhibit.
For more information on the Museum of the West, Dinosaur Journey or the Museum of Western Colorado in general, check out this website: http://https://www.museumofwesternco.com/