‘Stewards of our shared cultural history’
Anasazi Heritage Center to celebrate its silver anniversary
Sam Green/Cortez Journal File
The Bureau of Land Management’s Anasazi Heritage Center will celebrate its 25th birthday with a series of special events and speakers from August 24 to Aug. 27,.
The Anasazi Heritage Center opened in 1988 as a repository for artifacts recovered during construction of McPhee Reservoir. All federally funded projects require an archaeological assessment of the project area and a place to safely store the artifacts recovered.
The Dolores Archaeological Program (DAP) was the largest public land archaeological in American History. It lasted eight years and yielded more than a million artifacts, as well as new insights into settlement patterns and human activities from more than 1,000 years ago.
The Anasazi Heritage Center (AHC) continues to receive and catalog artifacts from legal excavations on public lands in southwest Colorado, and the collection presently numbers more than 3.5 million objects. The collection is a magnet for national and international researchers who seek insight into the people who lived on this extraordinary landscape.
Local pride and local activism were behind grassroots efforts to keep DAP materials from moving to Denver or elsewhere when the project was complete. The collection remains public property and accessible for research by arrangement with the curator. The museum staff has accommodated almost 300 researchers since 2009 alone. Non-research visitors can tour the collections on Saturday, August 25, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and on every Thursday at 2 p.m. through October 31. Almost 700 people have toured the collection in the past 5 years.
When Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was created in the year 2000, the museum gained a new role as monument headquarters and visitors center.
“Our responsibility for Canyons of the Ancients means the AHC is about more than the indoor exhibits and collections,” says monument manager Marietta Eaton, “We are stewards of our shared cultural heritage.”
The 170,000-acre national monument contains the highest density of archaeological sites in the United States, and is managed as an integral cultural landscape.
Two 12th century settlements are adjacent to the museum. Hikers and other recreationalists are encouraged to visit the Center for orientation before heading out into monument lands west of Dolores, where 11 more archaeological sites are managed as destinations within the monument.
Over the last quarter-century, the AHC has received many national awards. The National Association for Interpretation recognized the Center for the excellence of its special exhibits (1997, 1998, 2004), a poster (1998), and a curriculum that meets state education goals through lessons involving archaeology (2002). To date, almost 50,000 students have participated in Heritage Center programs.
In 2006, the Heritage Center received the State Honor Award from Colorado Preservation Inc., from the Society for American Archaeology for the movie “Visit With Respect.” Produced in collaboration with the San Juan Mountains Association, the Colorado Historical Society and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, the film features Native American perspectives on archaeology. The movie is shown to more than 10,000 persons annually, and is subtitled in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.
The Bureau of Land Management recognized the museum in 1992 and 2006 for its outstanding volunteer program. Since 1988 over 400 volunteers have contributed more than 175,000 hours of their time and talents. Several have volunteered at the Center for more than a decade, and some have contributed more than 6,000 hours each. Volunteers help out as information desk hosts, tour guides, gardeners, cataloguing assistants and educational program leaders.
The museum’s main gallery displays on regional archaeology have evolved with time.
“We call them permanent exhibits, but none are really permanent,” says exhibit specialist Michael Williams.
Student interns help to replace or improve the displays from time to time, keeping pace with new discoveries in archaeology. One large display is dedicated to artifacts of the Chappell Collection, which is on permanent loan from a local nonprofit group, the Anasazi Historical Society.
The museum also has hosted 65 temporary exhibits in its Special Exhibit Gallery since 1988. Some were developed entirely by the Center staff. The rest are borrowed from other museums, agencies, universities, or individuals, and usually enhanced with artifacts from the Center’s collections. Special exhibits may focus on subjects beyond archaeology. such as Native American cultures, Western history, local artists, and natural resources.
Since 1988, the Anasazi Heritage Center has hosted about 648,000 visitors representing every continent and corner of the world. They leave with a greater appreciation for the rich cultural legacy of Montezuma County and the greater Southwest.
The museum is three miles west of Dolores, and is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information contact the Anasazi Heritage Center at 970-882-5600.
Sam Green/Cortez Journal