All hands on deck — Eagle museum reopens after volunteer cleanup | VailDaily.com

All hands on deck — Eagle museum reopens after volunteer cleanup

Preserving history can be a dusty business, particularly when you house artifacts inside a structure that's an artifact itself.

But the Eagle County Historical Society Museum is now open for the season, housed in the former Chambers dairy barn now located at Chambers Park in Eagle. Along with the barn, the museum complex includes the former Avon General Store building and a historic Denver and Rio Grand Railroad caboose.

"We tell the history of Eagle County from the Ute Indians to the ski resorts," said Kathy Heicher, Eagle County Historical Society president. "The Eagle County Historical Society has catalogued more than 1,000 artifacts."

All of those artifacts, combined with the less-than-airtight barn structure, means before the museum can open for the year, a massive cleanup effort must be mounted. That happened this week thanks to some helpful cleaning hands from BluSky Restoration.

All hands on deck

Notably, the hands that helped clean the Eagle County Historical Society Museum this spring doesn't usually do that kind of work. The crew of 13 people from BluSky who showed up at the museum bright and early last week belonged to the company's office, management and sales staff. BluSky's local cleaning crews had been dispatched to Denver to help with the cleanup from hailstorms that hit the Front Range last week.

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As he removed a layer of winter grime from the valley model that sits at the museum entrance, BluSky Vice President John Corbin said the company wanted to honor its commitment to the Eagle County Historical Society to spruce up the museum before it opened for the season. That commitment, by the way, was a volunteer one.

Last year, Corbin was out and about with his kids when they spotted the old caboose parked at the museum grounds at Chambers Park. As his kids played on the structure, Corbin noticed it could use some power scrubbing. He also noticed other restoration work was needed around the museum campus and his mind started mulling possibilities. He proposed a volunteer day at the museum to his employees and they agreed to participate. Corbin contacted ECHS Museum Curator John Bronn, who was more than willing to put them to work.

With Bronn's passing earlier this year, the historical society was unprepared for the museum opening logistics.

"John Bronn always organized the museum cleaning and we were expecting him to be here to do that," Heicher said.

She was beyond relieved when she called BluSky to hear that the team would be willing to donate spring cleaning labor again this year.

"This is really an important part of our community that is unique to our community," Corbin said. "As a company, BluSky's expertise is cleaning and restoring old structures, so this really fits the bill."

"Our knight in shining armor wears rubber boots," Heicher said.

Easily distracted

While Corbin sported some knee-high rubber boots, he and his cleaning crew were also attired in crisp button-down oxford shirts and ironed khaki pants. They managed to both clean the museum and stay clean enough themselves to head out on sales calls or back to the office when they finished work.

"The hardest part is we have to stay focused on what we are wiping down, not reading about the exhibits," Corbin said.

Business manager Lorrie Johnson was assigned the pain-staking task of dusting the former Eagle Valley Enterprise linotype press.

"It was basically an all-hands-on-deck call for this year," she said. "But like they say, lots of hands make for fast work," Johnson said.

Now open

With its floors mopped and its display cases shining, the museum is now open for visitors. According to Heicher, the museum will greet upwards of 4,000 of them before it closes next fall.

"A lot of people aren't aware we are here, but this is a great resource where people can find the roots of Eagle County," she said.

The museum opened in 1991 and its collection is always growing.

"People bring us great stuff," Heicher said.

For instance, Heicher noted the Doll family recently donated the ornate grade school and high school diplomas awarded to Imogene Nottingham Doll.

Manning the museum is a team of 12 or so docents who share stories and offer assistance to all who stop by.

The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted.

If you go …

What: Eagle County Historical Society Museum.

Where: Located on Chambers Avenue in Eagle, follow signs from the interstate.

When: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: Free, but donations are gratefully accepted.