The Museums of Western Colorado, all located in Grand Junction, offer a full and comprehensive range of educational, entertaining, and interactive exhibits focusing on a variety of topics. With a dinosaur museum, one focusing on Native American history, and a full working historic orchard, the campus offers family fun for all.
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The history of the museum campuses traces all the way back to 1949, when the idea got its start. They first opened their doors in 1966 and were accredited officially in 1971. When re-evaluated for that status in both 1982 and 1996, they continued to not only meet but exceed all standards required. Due to receiving their 4th accreditation, the museum is now rated in the top 1% of museums in the United States.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Museum of the West- The Museum of the West has numerous permanent exhibits meant to entertain and educate. Below is just a small selection of the many exhibits.
Native American Gallery- This gallery is made up of two different exhibits featuring Native American history, with the featured exhibit focusing on prehistoric pottery from a collection by Philip Holstein. This collection includes pottery from multiple cultures, like the Hohokum, Mimbres, and Anazasi. The second gallery features rock art panels from the Ute as well as the Fremont cultures, Kachinas (spirit dolls), Navajo rugs, and a collection of one-thousand-year-old artifacts from the Fremont culture.
Uranium Mine- This exhibit walks guests through a full-sized uranium mine to see what life is like for the miners who work there, as well as learning about the “Uranium Boom” with a mixture of interactive stations and sounds.
Dinosaur Journey- This museum, located in the heart of what is often referred to as “dinosaur country,” takes visitors through the history of Western Colorado life using both real and cast skeletons, as well as robotic dinosaur reconstructions. There is also a hands-on section with a sandbox that allows visitors to create their own dinosaur footprint tracks, and a site made to look like a quarry where guests can uncover their very own dinosaur fossils and bones.
- Fruitadens- View a model of this tiny dinosaur, which weighed only a pound even at adulthood. It is tied for being the smallest dinosaur that has been found in the entire world. For reference, some dinosaurs got up to 75,000 pounds!
- Paleontology research- The museum is also at the forefront of local paleontological research. Visitors can visit the working laboratory where researchers prepare the bones for display and see the collections room where scientists and researchers study.
Cross Orchard- This living museum allows visitors to stroll back in time to the late 1800s, complete with historic buildings. The grounds encompass more than 12 acres and are also available for rent out for many different special events. Check out the barn, packing shed, and gazebo.
- Uintah Caboose- Recently finished, visitors can see the restored caboose which a work in progress since 1996!
- F.A.R.M.- This market allows local farmers and ranchers to display their goods. It occurs on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting at 7:30am and goes until noon.
The museums that make up the campus regularly welcome school programs and field trips to their premises. Reservations are required, and group pricing applies.
The Museum of the West teaches students about both the prehistory and the history of Western Slope. Older students can participate in a scavenger hunt at the museum, while guided tours which also include the Basement Exploratorium behind the scenes tour are available for all students with reservations.
Dinosaur Journey helps educate students about paleontology and geology with multiple video presentations, a mile-long hiking trail and additional access to the nearby state park (for a fee).
At Cross Orchards, children can experience a historic orchard with a guided tour focusing on the way people used to live in the late 1800s.
Education kits come with teacher resources, materials and curriculum and are able to be checked out. There are two different themed kits available - one that focuses on Native American prehistory and one that looks at paleontology. Contact the educational staff for additional information and to request a kit.
While at any of the three museum campuses, make sure to check out the gift shop and help support their mission and daily operations. They offer a variety of gifts from each of the areas - cookbooks from the orchard, t-shirts, dinosaur toys, etc. Guests can also shop through Amazon via their “smile” page (accessible from the website), which also helps to support the museum campus.
Museums of Western Colorado, 462 Ute Ave, Grand Junction, CO, 81501, Phone: 970-242-0971