Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig featuring new exhibits |

Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig featuring new exhibits

Joshua Roberts

Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, talks about the museum's most recent exhibit, "America Takes to the Road on the Victory Highway," Tuesday at the museum on Yampa Avenue. The exhibit showcases photos and signs along with a restored 10-foot manual gas pump used in the 1920s.
Shawn McHugh

Jan Gerber talks about Frank Tenney Johnson, an artist now featured in the "Passing of the Old West" exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. The exhibit includes a painting palette Johnson used and a Winchester rifle he bought in 1904 while spending time in Hayden.Shawn McHugh

The Museum of Northwest Colorado has unveiled two new exhibits this summer — one that pays homage to a cross-country American highway, and another that puts a new wrinkle on an Old West tale.

"America Takes to the Road on Victory Highway," a tribute to an effort in the 1920s to honor World War I veterans, opened last week.

And, earlier this summer, the museum injected the work of a new artist into "Passing of the Old West," an exhibit that originally opened last year.

"Hopefully, some people will get a kick out of them," museum director Dan Davidson said of the exhibits, which will be open for the next several months.

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The Victory Highway exhibit includes items that had been in the museum's collection, as well as some contributed by the Wyman Museum, also located in Craig.

What is perhaps the centerpiece of the Victory Highway exhibit, a 10-foot tall, red, white and blue, completely refurbished gasoline pump from the 1920s, came from a third source — Moffat County resident Jack Peed, who loaned the item to the museum.

"I think this is a big draw," assistant director Jan Gerber said Tuesday while standing near the pump, which had once been at the Beckett Ranch and includes a sign advertising gas prices of the time at 10 cents per gallon.

According to the exhibit, the Victory Highway Association was formed in 1921 "with the purpose of developing a road that would span the country, providing more freedom to people with automobiles. The new road was to be called the 'Victory Highway' in honor of the fallen warriors in the Great War, and it was the first road in the U.S. to receive federal funds for construction."

Victory Highway, which spanned about 3,200 miles from New York to San Francisco, was later renamed U.S. Highway 40.

"Passing of the Old West" is a collection that "portrays the change which came to the Western United States from 1850 to 1950, through the eyes of a number of well-known artists," according to the exhibit.

This year, the exhibit includes a brief history of Frank Tenney Johnson, as well as several Johnson prints and original works.

Johnson, according to the exhibit, came to Hayden in 1904 "to work on Cary Ranch as a cowboy. He later claimed that the brief time spent in Northwest Colorado was extremely formative in his career as a Western painter."

Johnson, born in Big Grove, Iowa, also spent time in Craig during his stay in Northwest Colorado. He wrote letters to his wife, Vinnie, who was in New York, about his experiences in Craig.

"He described Craig as a clean little town with polite, refined and educated residents," according to the museum.

"He really did (enjoy Craig)," Davidson said. "He gives a real favorable impression."

The exhibit also features Johnson's palette and a rifle he claimed to have purchased for $14 in Hayden.

Noted for his "contemplative paintings of the cowboy and his nocturnal scenes," Johnson became "one of the most famous early 20th century Western painters," according to the exhibit. He died from meningitis in 1939, "at the height of his career."

However, his work lives on in the upstairs balcony at the museum, where "Passing of the Old West" is displayed. The exhibit also features other items with local ties, which Davidson said was the goal of museum staff when retooling the display earlier this year.

"I think, if anything, we tied it in with more local (items)," he said.

The Victory Highway exhibit will be open for at least a year, museum officials said, while "Passing of the Old West" is scheduled to close at the end of the year.

Eyes on exhibits

The Museum of Northwest Colorado, 590 Yampa Ave., is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

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