Rangely Museum seeking to keep local artifacts

RANGELY | After decades of highlighting local history while watching Native American and paleontological artifacts be shipped away to other museums the Rangely Museum has decided it’s time to expand into a repository, keeping local artifacts local.
In coordination with the Rangely Historical Society, the Rangely Museum is moving towards state repository certification and eventually the establishment of a full repository as part of the museum. A repository is a certified, controlled area where the museum can store and display both archeological—such as Native American—artifacts and paleontological finds, such as dinosaur bones. Along with being able to keep new discoveries local the museum will also have the ability to recall artifacts that were previously discovered in the area but sent to other museums.
The addition of the repository may open up a variety of educational and tourism opportunities for Rangely, as well as allow for even further expansion of the museum. Once designated as a repository the museum will be eligible for numerous grants, allowing for expansion and maintenance of their programs. “Because there is a shortage of repositories in the state, and because we haven’t sought funds for years, we are a desirable location for the state to release funds to,” said museum board treasurer Dan Fiscus.
However, to reach their goals the museum will need more than just the repository status. A licensed curator will be essential to the museum, and they have found one in the form of Rangely local Gaila Bell. Bell, who sits on the museum board, has been working towards getting licensed as a curator and expects to be certified by the end of August.
The museum will need to enlist the help of archeologists and paleontologists to move forward with both the repository and grant funding. To fill this need they are establishing a working relationship with the non-profit Dominiques Archaeological Research Group (or D.A.R.G.) out of Grand Junction. According to Fiscus, the museum would like to partner with D.A.R.G. to help get the repository up and running. They will need $17,500 for the creation of a five-year plan. “Without a comprehensive five year plan we can’t determine the size or scope of our project nor know how big of a grant we will need,” Fiscus said.
“Currently our museum is funded by Rio Blanco County, and from membership fees and donations from patrons. Our budget is very small, and it is difficult to keep the lights on at times, let alone advance many capitol projects,” Fiscus said. To raise the needed funds, the Museum is seeking money from the Rangely Development Corporation.
Seeking to become a repository isn’t the only new development going on at the museum. This spring they unveiled their new program, Fireside Histories.
“We started the Fireside program as a way to reach out to the community through living history,” Fiscus said. During the warm months the museum brings in various speakers in the evenings to discuss a wide variety of historical topics that are locally pertinent. The Firesides began in May with the Fiscus and Gravy Band discussing the history of the music of the pioneers. In June Curtis Martin from D.A.R.G. gave a presentation on the work he is doing on the study of Ute wikiups, which are tipi like structures that can still be found standing in Rio Blanco County. In July, local flint knappers Tim Meinen and Jordan Fiscus demonstrated how to make stone arrow heads and gave a history on the craft. The next Fireside will be Aug. 11, when Fran Hill will give a presentation on the first school teacher in Rangely, Carrie Blakeslee. On Sept. 2, Ken Bailey will talk about the history of oil exploration in Rangely. Bailey is a noted historian and author who grew up in Rangely. The last Fireside for the year will be Sept. 23 when Dave Jordan and Dan Fiscus will give a presentation on the Ute War of 1887. The Firesides all take place at the museum at 7:30 p.m.
As if that weren’t enough the museum is working on expanding their oil field and Native American exhibits as well as the pioneer outdoors displays. They are also planning a get together for the newly formed Rangely Old Timers Association. The evening of Saturday, Sept. 2 they will host a meal. More information and tickets are available at the museum.
Of course Labor Day weekend also brings the museum’s annual Ice Cream Social. On Sunday Sept. 3 they will host their homemade ice cream contest along with live music.
For anyone interested in getting involved with the museum a volunteer form can be found on their website, ramuseum.wixsite.com. To help the museum reach their financial goals you can also make a donation or become a member on the website or in person. Yearly membership fees range from $15 to $50 and come with a subscription to The Crier, a tri-annual newsletter, which will keep you informed of projects, grants, displays, events, oral histories and stories of the area.