Former Craig museum tour guide earns posthumous hall of fame recognition
Bill Mackin honored by national organization
The man whose lifelong collection makes up Craig’s Cowboy and Gunfighter Museum took his ride into the sunset late last year, but a new honor helps ensure he won’t long be forgotten.
Bill Mackin, a longtime resident of northwest Colorado, was recently inducted into the National Bit, Spur & Saddle Collectors Association hall of fame. For years, Mackin hosted tours and curated exhibits at Craig’s Museum of Northwest Colorado.
Mackin died from complications caused by Alzheimer’s and COVID-19 last November, but he received the award posthumously. To be considered for the hall of fame, another member of the organization must nominate and submit a candidate to the board of directors for consideration.
Don Bailey, a board member for the NBSSCA, nominated Mackin for the Hall of Fame and said that he had no trouble thinking of Mackin when asked who to suggest for the recognition.
“Bill Mackin was one of a kind,” Bailey said. “We’ve had very few in our group that have done what he’s done.”
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The NBSSCA, founded in 1980, is an association of around 1,000 members across the United States who collect items associated with the art and artifacts of the Old West. Every year, the NBSSCA board of directors asks for nominations from members for inclusion in the hall of fame. The number of inductees varies from year to year, but this year, there were two inductees: Mackin and John Upton Holden.
Bailey said over the years Mackin exemplified the mission of the NBSSCA to preserve the history of the American West. At shows, Bailey said Mackin was an expert that could answer almost any history question you had for him.
“He was a unique character — somewhat outspoken — but certainly an expert on the Old West stuff,” Bailey said. “I think most anybody felt like they could ask Bill a question, and he’s probably going to know the answer. And be ready for a few minutes because he’s going to explain that in depth. It’s gonna take a little bit because he wasn’t going to do something halfway.”
Mackin was also a founder and curator emeritus of the Cowboy and Gunfighter Museum, a portion of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, and he had published hundreds of articles on the American West including pieces in The Tombstone Epitaph, Frontier Magazine and The Western Horseman. Featured in many historical writings of the region, Mackin was known as a reliable source on northwest Colorado.
“Most of (the artifacts), (Mackin) purchased with his own money and had it all put together,” Bailey added. “In the beginning, his goal was to put it together for people to see and understand what he loved about the Old West — not just Colorado, but the entire western United States.”
Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, said that Mackin’s award solidifies the importance of his collection to Old Western history.
“It helps to add real strong validity to what that collection means to the community, to northwest Colorado and overall to the collecting field,” Davidson said. “As far as everything goes — from spurs and bits and saddles and gun leather — it’s an amazing collection that Bill’s spent his whole life putting together.”
Davidson said that Mackin wanted to share his collection with the community, so in the 1990s, they set up a deal to keep the entirety of his collection in one place. Mackin’s collection has since become one of the biggest advertising points for the museum, Davidson said.
“He wanted a place where his collection could be out and people could see it,” Davidson said. “He was excited with the fact that his legacy was going to be permanent. When most people collect things their whole lives, there’s a big auction, and it’s all gone. It’s all dispersed. So he was excited about the fact that it was going to stay in one piece.”
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.