County proposes to buy Mining Museum

Barbara Lawlor

A 1916 poster advertising the World Championship Hand Drilling Contest in Nederland is displayed on the loft wall in the Nederland Mining Museum. The winner of the contest received a-year-and-a-half’s salary, a fortune at that time.
The poster was found in an old Eldora cabin, part of the insulation, disintegrated into dozens of pieces. In a labor of love, the poster’s pieces were painstakingly reassembled by members of the Nederland Area Historic Society. The poster is just the tip of the artifact iceberg that has accumulated in the museum. The stone building at the roundabout is a bastion of the area’s mining history, the result of a handful of people’s efforts in the last few decades to pay homage to the area’s mining heritage and protect the remnants of the past for future generations.
Preserving these irreplaceable artifacts has been the goal of the historic society, and in recent years a combination of financial events has been of concern to the society’s Board members. This past weekend those concerns became a moot point as the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Board decided to recommend the purchase of the NAHS museum collection, access and maintenance easement.
These treasured historic artifacts aren’t going anywhere, though. They will remain in the museum with the guarantee that the collection will be preserved in perpetuity by a government agency that has the financial means and know how to do it.
NAHS President Kayla Evans and Head Curator of Acquisitions Danny Martin said they are ‘joyous and relieved’ at the proposal and that they couldn’t have a better partner than the Boulder County Parks and Open Space people.
The proposal now goes before the Boulder County Commissioners for approval. The meeting will be on Thursday, Aug. 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room on the third floor of the courthouse at 1325 Pearl Street.
The proposal is the culmination of three years of effort to climb out of a financial hole. When the NAHS bought three lots of the Snyder property, it got a good deal. The Society used the three lots next to the mining museum as collateral and planned to sell the Snyder property and use those profits for a museum endowment.
“But it didn’t work out,” Evans said. “It was a bad market. When we did the property, the funds were just enough to get out of the deal; we still had the mortgage on the three lots at the museum.”
The historic society has also suffered from the loss of volunteers, through death or moving away or a lack of interest from a younger community with no personal ties to the town’s history. It was up to a few people to rally round supporting the museum. Three years ago Martin approached the POSAB with the idea that the County become involved.
Since then dozens of meetings have taken place from 13 different departments. The Boulder County commissioners visited the historic building and some of them became hooked on the idea. A change of County staff meant starting all over again, and the property and collection were assessed. The slow wheel of the government started and stopped, but kept moving forward.
Boulder County POSAB acquisition staff member Jim Daus stated that the transfer of operation of the museum includes the sale of the artifacts, which the County historic preservation staff has deemed as extensive and of excellent quality.
“The well-documented and organized displays represent the dedication of the volunteers, make the museum a wonderful place to visit, and the transition to the County’s management will be easy.”
The sale will include the contents of the museum’s interior, $80,000; the exterior equipment, $10,000; an access and maintenance easement for $20,000, for a total of $110,000.
The recommendation to the commissioners states that, “It makes sense for the County to operate the museum. Not only would the acquisition of the museum collection fit in well with the County’s plans for a hands-on hard-rock mining tour, but the museum could well become the centerpiece of this tour.”
The County would continue to use the volunteer docents who have made museum visits an enriching, informative experience. With county involvement, the museum will be open on weekdays as well as weekends. Having the county in charge of the operations will also free up the historic board to pursue and continue other projects that have been simmering on the back burner.
Martin said the Bryant House is next on the list. The Gillaspie Museum will benefit and the cemetery gate project can move forward.
“We are not selling out,” Martin said. “The museum is not threatened. If people have questions about the proposal, they are welcome to come to the historic society meetings and learn about the process. The annual meeting will take place at the end of this month.”
The money from the sale will be used to pay off the mortgage and open an account that will be used for future projects.
Evans said: “This move means the world to me because of my mom, who was a great advocate of preserving our history, and my gratitude goes to Danny. If not for him, there would not be a museum in this town.”
Martin said that the basic mission of the museum remains the same. “We are just taking it to the next level. It is about collecting, preserving and exhibiting documents, artifacts and other records of Nederland area history for the education and enjoyment of the public.”