Craig's era of rapid change

New museum exhibit documents Craig in the 1970s

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Keith Gillam's old Nikon camera sits idly today in a display case at the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

But in the 1970s, Gillam's camera spent countless hours slung over his shoulder as he documented a period of rapid change and enormous growth in Craig.

"You always saw him with a camera," museum director Dan Davidson said about the former Daily Press photographer.

Gillam's photographs and the camera that took them are part of a new exhibit at the museum titled, "In the Midst of Change." The exhibit documents Craig in the 1970s, a period when the town's population almost doubled in a five-year period.

The official opening of the exhibit is next week during Grand Olde West Days.

Davidson said the exhibit will run through the summer.

Gillam worked at the Daily Press for more than 10 years in the 1970s and 1980s. He started at the paper shortly after he and his wife, Agnes, moved to Craig from his native Kansas City, Mo., in the early 1970s.

He passed away in Craig in 2003.

Gillam's son, Lennie Gil-lam, stored the pictures in his basement before loaning thousands of negatives and photographs to the museum.

"It's a tribute to my dad and his work," Lennie Gillam said about the exhibit.

About a hundred of Gillam's black-and-white photographs make up the exhibit.

"In a small town, you're not going to find many opportunities for a collection like this," Davidson said.

Gillam's photographs show a variety of major events, including the construction of The Memorial Hospital and the January 1978 fire that destroyed four downtown businesses.

The exhibit also documents the arrival of Kmart and Centennial Mall and how they transformed Craig's retail landscape.

"Downtown has never been as viable of a commercial center since," Davidson said.

Most of the photographs have captions, but for some, such as a picture of employees at Craig Ford, Davidson hasn't been able to identify all of the people.

For others, Davidson can identify the people but not the event.

Davidson en--courages anyone who knows more about the photographs to let him know.

One of the toughest photographs for Davidson to find was of Gillam himself.

"It was hard to find a picture of him because he always had the camera," Davidson said.

Davidson did, however, manage to find an old Daily Press staff photograph of Gillam.

Lennie Gillam said his father's photographs will bring back memories for anyone who grew up in Craig or was here in the 1970s. "People can look at them and say 'Hey, I remember that.'"

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