What’s New at the Museum of the Mountain West

Rich Fike, above, has been obsessed with history and with collecting Western artifacts since age four. Photo by Clay Greathouse.

Rich Fike, above, has been obsessed with history and with collecting Western artifacts since age four. Photo by Clay Greathouse.

By Liesl Greathouse

MONTROSE—(March 4, 2014)  One popular destination in Montrose is the Museum of the Mountain West (MMW).  There is always something going on at the museum, whether it is buildings being renovated, artifacts being collected or tours being given. But for a full update, you will have to talk with museum director Richard Fike.

Richard Fike founded the MMW in 1997. He is a retired historical archaeologist and began collecting western memorabilia when he was four years old.  He had his first museum in his parent’s guest room at the age of eight.     “The MMW is an inspiration, of what had begun at age eight, coming to fruition,” he said.

All museum tours are guided by docents so that your experience is enjoyable and educational, helping visitors experience what it was like to live in western Colorado in the 1880’s to the 1940’s.  “The big main building was built in 1997, with our first exhibit created in 2000,” Fike said.  “We now have 25 buildings outside, plus outhouses, and over 500,000 original relics, artifacts, and items of historical significance.”

In 2011, the Museum received an Honorable Mention as one of True West Magazine’s Museums of the Year, which has helped draw in more visitors.  “We keep growing by leaps and bounds,” Fike said.  “We have had visitors from 26 countries and 46 states.  We earned the Honorable Mention because of two things: authenticity and open exhibits with tour guides.”

A big event to look forward to this year is the Museum’s main fundraiser, the Fifth Annual Tribute to Western Movies Day, on Sept. 27 at the MMW grounds.  This year, it is featuring the 40+ movies filmed in Colorado from 1927-2013.  While not all the movies will be shown, posters and movie theater lobby cards will be on display, in addition to the other museum exhibits.  Attendees will be able to enjoy live music, gun fights, kids’ activities, crafts, food and much more.   Admission is only $10 for the entire day for adults, $5 for school age children and $25 for an immediate family.

In addition to looking for food vendors for the event, Fike is looking for some ‘special guests’.  “We are looking for people who were somehow involved with the filming of Westerns in Colorado, whether on set, as extras, etc.” Fike explained.

As to the day-to-day operations, there have been some recent additions to the Museum that include an original photo of Sitting Bull, swords, a bottle of hail oil found in the room where Doc Holliday died, and a saddle of Butch Cassidy’s.

With new artifacts arriving weekly, the Museum is constantly fixing up buildings and featuring new exhibits.  “We have three new exhibits near completion,” Fike said.  “We are working on creating a land office/law office at the back of the hotel, so we are looking for maps, law books and legal documents for display.”

People can help the museum grow by donating artifacts to be used in exhibits.  Some of the artifacts currently needed include railroad items for an upcoming exhibit, including ‘trucks’ to be used on actual railroad cars, and a windmill that would be used to enhance the grounds.

The MMW is designated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) by the IRS, so all donations are tax deductible.

People are always welcome to help with building projects and day-to-day operations, whether as a sponsor or as a volunteer.  “Sponsorships are available for buildings, where in addition to helping fix it up, people can have their name put on a house, log cabin, etc.,” Fike explained.    “We are also looking for people with skills and time to volunteer as tour guides, carpenters and many other things.”

As for Fike, he will not stop helping with the Museum anytime soon, nor will he stop collecting.  “It has been in my blood since I was four years old and I can’t leave it alone,” he said.  “I want to make the museum bigger and better, and leave it for the public when I am gone.  Every day is a treat and every day is an adventure.”

The Museum of the Mountain West is located two miles east of Montrose on U.S. 50 at Miami Road and is open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday.  For more information, call 970-240-3400.