Until this year, the Tread of Pioneers Museum has struggled financially to keep its doors open. Taking on large-scale projects such as cataloging the entire collection never crossed the historians' minds.
Now, with the help of funding from a property tax that covers basic operating expenses, the Tread of Pioneers staff can finally think long term.
With the money from Friday's "Treading on the Grapes" wine-tasting benefit, the staff members plan to take an inventory of their collection.
"For 30 years, we relied on volunteers alone," museum executive director Candice Lombardo said. "A lot has been done, but it is not as complete as it could be. There are gaps." This year, the museum plans to create a digital photographic record of every item in the collection and pair it with any available information on a computer database.
"With the new system, we will be able to track not only the items themselves, but the condition of the items as we put together an exhibit," Lombardo said. "This will take us into the 21st century."
Lombardo estimates the cataloging project will cost more than $20,000 to complete.
The Tread of Pioneers Museum has more than 4,000 objects in its collection, which are tracked by a card catalog and information in donor files, but many objects were donated and never identified.
"Pioneer families passed away and things were just dropped off," Lombardo said. She estimates that 70 percent of the collection is currently catalogued. "These are the behind-the-scenes responsibilities that a museum has. This project has been in the museum's long-range plan for 14 years, but we could never consider something like this when we could barely stay open.
"The mill levy will help us do what a museum is supposed to be doing. We will be able to take better care of our collection when we have a handle on it."
Once completed, the computer database will be open to the public for anyone doing personal or professional research about Routt County's past. Information will be accessible through simple keyword searches.
Friday's benefit will feature wine donated by The Bottleneck, paired with appetizers from Harwigs/L'Apogee, Tobiano, Riggio's Fine Italian Food and Giovanni's Ristorante. The Yampa Valley Boys are providing entertainment.
The historical films "Cow Town to Ski Town: The story of Steamboat Springs," "The Treacherous and Speedy Skee!" and "A Visual History of Skiing" also will be shown in the Centennial Hall theater. Videographer F.M. "Smokey" Vandergrift coupled film clips from the museum archives with his own interviews for these films.
"We want to start incorporating an educational and historical element as part of our future fund-raisers," Lombardo said. "This isn't just any fund-raiser. It's a Tread of Pioneers Museum event."
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