I have a fondness for the past. In the wild, I love to explore ghost towns and abandoned mining sites. Stuck in civilization, I enjoy exploring historical museums, especially those located in the mountain communities of Colorado. Here are some of my favorites.

Ouray County Museum

The museum occupies what was once a hospital of the Sisters of Mercy. The rooms represent the offices of doctors, lawyers and dentists, among others, and there is a jail cell with a stuffed prisoner. My wife, a retired nurse, enjoys the operating room display where the anesthetic of the day was ether and whiskey. The basement level represents a mine whose collection of rocks and minerals includes fluorescent stones glistening under ultraviolet light. It highlights my black light memories of the 70s. 420 Sixth Avenue, Ouray, 970-325-4576, ouraycountyhistoricalsociety.org

San Juan County Historical Society Museum

Located in Silverton, the museum experience begins in what was once a three-story prison that includes a walk-in cell with chains. A tunnel leads to the Mining Heritage Center, where exhibits show how mining has evolved over the years. My favorite was the small pot from a nearby mine, which consisted of an ore cart with an outhouse-style hole carved into its top. 1557, rue Greene, Silverton, 970-387-5838, sanjuancountyhistoricalsociety.org

Buena Vista Heritage Museum

Occupying the former Chafee County Courthouse, the lower level of the museum features an array of historical artifacts and a recreated classroom. Upstairs, a miniature railroad runs 140 miles of the Upper Arkansas Valley between Leadville and Royal Gorge. Built by the local model train club, it features miniature buildings and figures in amazing detail. There’s a boy’s treehouse with a “No Girls” sign and a bear sneaking up on a man caught with his pants down. I bet he wished he had one of those little cars. 506 East Main St., Buena Vista, 719-395-8458, buenavistaheritage.org/heritage-museum

Historical Society and Frontier Museum

Located in Glenwood Springs, the museum is housed in a historic brick house with a restored living room, dining room, bedrooms and kitchen. Hanging on the wall is a short biography of Kid Curry, former member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Faced with the capture, the Kid committed suicide; he is buried in Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood, a place my wife sadly said she “was dying to see”. 1001 Colorado Avenue, Glenwood Springs, 970-945-4448, visitglenwood.com/things-to-do/cultural-historical/frontier-historical-society

Frisco Historical Park and Museum

The park sits at the quiet end of Main Street, with the main museum occupying a former schoolhouse originally built as a saloon. Beyond the school are period buildings moved from other places. 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 Street, 970-668-3428, townoffrisco.com/play/historic-park-and-museum/general-info/

Western Museum

Located in downtown Grand Junction, this is the largest museum between Salt Lake City and Denver. Exhibits range from prehistoric Indian and Spanish colonial artifacts to 20th century uranium boom devices. They tell us that modern uranium prospectors have borrowed some of their Geiger counters from the 1950s to learn how it works. That alone gives the museum a glowing recommendation. 462, avenue Ute, 970-242-0971, museumofwesternco.com/museum-of-the-west/)

Gunnison Pioneer Museum

Unlike museums that feature orderly displays of well-labeled artifacts, this sprawling museum features an array of buildings filled with artifacts. My favorite is the car collection featuring automobiles ranging from Model A Fords to MG roadsters and Kennedy era Lincolns. My wife, whose dad worked for Bell Telephone, loved the display on the phone. Superman must have loved him too. He left his suit and cape in one of the telephone booths. 803 E. Tomichi Ave., 970-641-4530, gunnisonpioneermuseum.com


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