Craig Museum sees high attendance numbers, donations in 2021 |

Craig Museum sees high attendance numbers, donations in 2021

A photo of the watercolor mural that hangs inside the Museum of Northwest Colorado, painted by Israel Holloway.
Craig Press file

Excitement and engagement are what kept attendance and donations up at the Museum of Northwest Colorado during 2021, and museum leadership looks to 2022 to keep building it as a community hub.

Dan Davidson, director of the museum, said that, over the course of 2021, numbers started out strong. Then the Delta variant of COVID-19 slowed it down again. However, by the end of the year, attendance was up again.

“I think there was a distinct strategy to do what we do better,” Davidson said. “We weren’t able to do as many exhibits last year, but we did more on Facebook, so that didn’t hurt. That grew considerably. We were working on the online presence of the museum.”

Davidson also pointed to help from other city leaders that contributed to a better visitor and donation count at the museum. In this year’s budget for the city of Craig, the museum received a boost of $70,000 to help support it — from $300,000 to $370,000. This will help cover the cost of converting one part-time employee to full time, and to assist with an ADA capital installation.

Assistant director Paul Knowles said that specific numbers of how many guests came through the doors are hard to pin down — not every visitor signs in, local schools bring in students for field trips, and others come in to see a specific staff member. One strategy for 2021 was to target advertising to visitors to Steamboat Springs. This included showing off the largest watercolor painting in the world, which resides at the museum, as well as artifacts that tell the story of the Wild West.

Knowles said a considerable number of first-time visitors and out-of-town visitors came through in 2021, and he attributed higher numbers to remaining engaged with the community — even during pandemic lockdowns and remote work.

“We saw more walk-in donations. People were appreciating what they were seeing,” Knowles said. “We stayed relevant during COVID-19, and we generated excitement.”

Specifically, he noted social media engagement on the Museum Marvels posts when the museum was temporarily closed, which garnered big attention online, especially during the pandemic. In that series, the museum highlighted some of its most interesting featured items — from bison skulls to historical firearms to old photographs. Knowles said that one post got upward of 500 reactions and over 100 comments from users not just in the region, but across the country. Now, the museum’s page has almost 5,000 Facebook likes.

“Through that, we got a worldwide following — even people from Europe,” Knowles said. “We’re really close to 5,000 followers on our Facebook page. We did a good job generating interest. I think when most people think of a small-town museum, they think of Victorian dresses and doilies, but that’s not what we have here, and we were able to show them with Museum Marvels. That was an important time.”

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