The Importance of Research at the Museums of Western Colorado

David P. Bailey, Director of the Western Investigations Team/Curator of History

The Museums of Western Colorado staff is always busy creating new programming, offering history and science events to the public, and creating new exhibits. However, the backbone of all these endeavors is research. Our museum curators conduct original research at all our museum facilities. This research comes in many forms such as helping an author with a new book, finding information on an historical artifact, or identifying a fossil specimen. One of our most important museums missions is getting research out to the public.

In my role as Director of the Western Investigations Team and Curator of History at the Museum of the West, I have written numerous articles about the excavation and research conducted at the Kannah Creek Site and the discovery of Spanish Colonial artifacts. I believe knowledge for its own sake is useless and it is important to share new insights and information about our western Colorado heritage.

The exhibit, Distant Treasures in the Mist, told the story of the Kannah Creek Site and was accompanied by a book that I wrote also entitled, Distant Treasures in the Mist, which gives a more detailed account than can be presented in an exhibit. The Kannah Creek research received national attention with two research articles I published in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 editions of the Spanish Traces Magazine, the official publication for the Old Spanish Trail Association.

Another great venue for the Museum of the West to disseminate historical research is digital presentations. We created two videos, the first on the Kannah Creek Site and the second on Ute Legends of the Grand Mesa. It is always gratifying as a historian to realize the many hours spent researching old documents, maps, and the discovery of new artifacts can be turned into exciting new exhibits, insightful books and articles, and history presentations.

Editor’s note: Recent newscasts about David Bailey’s research have attracted international attention. Several publications have emailed and at least one, National Geographic Spain, has republished the story. Read it here.

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