My first experience with a museum was helping dad get the Jack Dempsey Museum in Manassa ready for its dedication. I was only 10, so I probably wasn't much help, but dad was always patient, and he could find creative ways to keep me busy and out of the way.
Maybe that's why I love museums so much. It may have helped when Jack Dempsey actually came to town for the dedication of the park and museum, and I got to shake his hand. I remember how my hand and most of my arm seemed to disappear in his huge grasp, and the kind laughter in his eyes as he shared stories with an appreciative audience.
For whatever reason, I've always viewed museums as living connections to our histories and cultures. As I explore the exhibits, I almost find myself transported to a different place and time, and I realize that those who have gone before weren't all that different than me.
It's a little like the explanation given by Lois Lowry in her novel Messenger: "That's why we have the museum, Matty, to remind us of how we came, and why: to start fresh, and begin a new place from what we had learned and carried from the old." Every museum tells stories , each from a different perspective. Twenty local museums, including the Francisco Fort Museum in La Veta and the Old Spanish Trail "outdoor" museum, make up the San Luis Valley Museum Association.
Most of the people keeping the museums open are volunteers, and resources are limited. "By coming together , the museums are able to share resources and support one another," explained Kat Olance, president of the association .
The association started in 1998 with 12 museums coming together to celebrate, preserve and share the stories of the people and history of the San Luis Valley. That same year, the museums found a home on the internet through the group's website. The portal is a way to attract visitors to the museums.
Recently, the organization received a $2,500 grant from the Alamosa Marketing District Board to upgrade and improve the functionality of the Museum Trails website. "We were able to give it a new look and a new layout ," Olance explained.
"Visitors will go online to plan their trips, and for many of the museums, this is the only web presence they have," she continued. "We are already seeing positive results from the upgrade."
The Valley's museums are now working on a photo preservation plan that will lead to the digitization of the museum's photograph collections , which will help expand and preserve historical photographs electronically.