Laurel Watson has taken over as the new curator of the Hayden Heritage Center. Watson succeeds Mary Pat Dunn as curator of the museum.

Photo by John F. Russell

Laurel Watson has taken over as the new curator of the Hayden Heritage Center. Watson succeeds Mary Pat Dunn as curator of the museum.

New curator in Hayden

Laurel Watson succeeds Mary Pat Dunn at Hayden Heritage Center

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Laurel Watson is new curator of the Hayden Heritage Center.

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Laurel Watson has taken over as the new curator of the Hayden Heritage Center. Watson succeeds Mary Pat Dunn as curator of the museum.

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Mary Pat Dunn, left, and Laurel Watson stand inside the Hayden Heritage Center in Hayden. Watson will succeed Dunn as curator of the Hayden museum.

— One of Laurel Watson’s first tasks as the new curator of the Hayden Heritage Center will be engaging the community in events and activities at the museum.

“That’s the big one, to get the museum out there,” she said. “I’d like to see more people see what a great museum this is.”

That’s part of the reason Watson was hired to succeed Mary Pat Dunn, who is stepping down after serving as the museum’s curator for the past five years, said Rebecca Wattles, the Hayden Heritage Center board president.

“We haven’t been community oriented, going out in the community and the schools,” Wattles said. “We feel that’s one of Laurel’s strong points. We’re excited about new ideas, new possibilities.”

Watson, 42, began training Tuesday. Sitting in the old living quarters upstairs at the Hayden Heritage Center, which is located in a 90-year-old train depot at North Poplar and Pearl streets, Watson beamed as she talked about her new job.

“History has been my mainstay,” Watson said. “I just love history. That’s why I applied for this job. I thought it would be perfect. I love history. I love old stuff. I love working with people. I thought this would be a perfect fit.”

In addition to engaging the community, Watson’s other duties as curator will include cataloguing and assessing museum items for displays, serving as a tour guide and working with Historic Routt County on preservation efforts in Hayden.

An Allenwood, N.J., native, Watson moved to Craig in 1990. She’s been a Steamboat Springs resident for the past 10 years. She and her husband, Blaine, have five children — the youngest of whom attends Steamboat Springs Middle School — as well as two grandchildren and a third on the way.

Watson has an associate of arts degree in liberal arts and fine arts from Colorado North­western Community Col­­­lege’s Craig campus and a bach­­elor’s degree in social science from Regis University in Denver.

And Watson will complete her master’s degree in history, with an emphasis in western American history, also from Regis, in May. She also has taught at CNCC as an adjunct professor.

Wattles said a group of more than 20 applicants for the position was whittled down to three finalists. She said Watson’s educational background and personality were the best fit for the job.

“We’re very excited,” she said. “We’re saddened to see Mary Pat go. She’s been phenomenal.”

Dunn, 59, submitted her resignation to the museum’s board in December. She also has worked for the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig for the past 14 years.

She said it was a tough decision to leave the Hayden Heritage Center, but it was time after having worked for both museums for the past five years. And Dunn is looking forward to spending time with her family after the birth of her grandchild.

But Dunn said the museum is in good hands.

“This has been such a labor of love on my part,” Dunn said. “It’s just so awesome to be able to turn it over to someone as passionate as I am.”

The Hayden Heritage Center is open during winter by ap­­pointment, but Watson said she would be at the museum from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until May 27, when it opens daily for the summer. The museum’s summer hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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