MONTE VISTA — An artifact from the Monte Vista Historical Society and Museum (MVHS) was one of one of 10 voted by the general public throughout the state to be Colorado’s 2017 Most Significant Artifacts.
The artifact selected as one of the most significant in the state was a sheet of letterhead stationary featuring an illustration of a dam at Wagon Wheel Gap. It is located at the Monte Vista Historical Society.
The sponsoring agency is the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, headquartered in Alamosa.
Why is this artifact significant? Water development in the Valley has always been an important issue. Being a high mountain desert, the Valley receives only seven inches of rain in an average year. Irrigation is crucial to farming and ranching, and these industries have been the mainstay of life here. Water storage and development continue to be crucial issues, and the Wagon wheel Gap Dam was an effort to increase storage and hence irrigation water.
How does the artifact relate to Colorado history? The fact that the dam was never built relates to Colorado history in that many projects were either delayed or never begun, due to the demands on resources posed by World War II. The management of water, its storage and basin transfer, continue to be important to the state and will continue to do so. The letterhead stationery is one such piece of the water picture.
The MVHS makes the second museum in the San Luis Valley to be selected in the most significant artifacts list and the fourth museum in southern Colorado to be selected. The museum in San Luis, Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center, had an artifact selected in 2014. It was the first museum in the Valley to be selected and the second museum in the entire southern portion of Colorado. The Pueblo Library was the first in 2013.
For the past five years, Colorado Collections Connection has sponsored the Most Significant Artifacts campaign “to honor and recognize Colorado’s cultural heritage organizations that care and preserve documents, films, diaries, books and other artifacts. Each item tells a story and collectively, represents the diverse history of Colorado.”
“Artifacts are alive. Each has a voice. They remind us what it means to be human, that it is our nature to survive, to create works of beauty, to be resourceful, to be attentive to the world we live in” — Terry Tempest Wiliams.
The 2017 Colorado Top Ten Artifacts, selected by public vote in addition to the artifact in Monte Vista are:
• Denim “Hippie” Skirt: Museum of Boulder
• Dr. Justina L. Warren Ford’s Medical Bag: Black Western American Museum
• William Henry Jackson’s Eastman View Camera, 1915: Denver Public Library
• The Yeager-Badger Creek Partial Vessel: Fort Morgan Museum
• Tokens from the Company Coal Mining Town of Mt. Harris, Colorado: Hayden Heritage Center
• Teacher Registration and Grade Books, 1920-1961: Lyons Historical Society
• The Circle Route Stagecoach, 1884: Montrose County Historical Society/Museum
• Galvanized Steel and Cast-iron Fire Cart, 1910: Niwot Historical Society
• Posters Advertising Picnics at Pine Tree Park, Post WWII: Pine Tree Park Recreation Area