By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE–One of Montrose’s most prestigious institutions is about to get a whole new look, and new amenities as well. The Ute Indian Museum south of town is scheduled to undergo a major capital construction project in coming months. The Museum, which is overseen by History Colorado, will receive more than $2.4 million in upgrades—effectively doubling the size of the current facility.

Located on 8.5 acres, the Ute Indian Museum has been under the auspices of History Colorado since 1946, History Colorado information officer Deborah Radman said.

“Our job has been to establish the historic house and museum in honor of Chief Ouray,” Radman said. “The legislature has approved our capital construction request for $2.4 million, but after costs escalated, the Joint Budget Committee has approved another $500,000 to bridge the gap, which the General Assembly will vote on. Once that is approved, we will make our official announcement.”

The construction project, expected to be complete by Nov. or Dec. of 2016, will take the Ute Indian Museum from 4,650 square feet to 8,500, Radman said.

“We are planning to close the Museum and Gift Shop in August, and move into temporary quarters nearby,” she said. “When we are finished, the Museum will include more rentable event space—it is such a great place for weddings! And we plan to expand and improve our gift shop and our cultural resource library—so many historians and researchers come to work there all the time.

“We will also be redoing the building’s exterior, to represent all three Ute Tribes,” she said.

Expect the Native Plants garden to greatly expand as well, Radman said.

“We plan to really spruce that area up, improve the gardens, and place a structure around the patio,” she said. “I plan to visit Montrose in March to see the renderings, and I am very interested in hearing from the community—let us know what you want to see.

“While the museum is closed is a great time to have these conversations,” she said. “So many things are going in this area—we are already providing computers for school children, and space for lectures and events. Please tell us your ideas. We want to get started before we close.”

The Museum is also seeking an Assistant Director, according to a news release issued last week by the City of Montrose’s Office of Business & Tourism, which has offered “a large, dedicated space” for the Ute Indian Museum to use throughout the expansion and renovation process.

Longtime Ute Indian Musem Director CJ Brafford, whose leadership has contributed to the Museum’s success over the years, said she looks forward to the expansion.

“I am very excited about the opportunity being provided to us,” Brafford said, “and about the many changes that will come with it.”

Established in 1879, History Colorado is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and an agency of the State of Colorado under the Department of Higher Education. They offer public access to cultural and heritage resources of Colorado, including statewide museums and special programs for individuals and families, collection stewardship of Colorado’s historic treasures, educational resources for schools, students and teachers, services related to preservation, archaeology and history, and the Stephen H. Hart Research Library.