Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Southern Ute Cultural Center in Ignacio, CO

I recently visited the Southern Ute Cultural Center in Ignacio, Colorado and was impressed with its beauty, architecture, and displays. Only a portion of the building is open to the public, less than one third of the floor space, but I assume they will make other exhibits available as they are completed. The building first opened to the public on Memorial Day 2011 - my visit was September 23, 2011, so everything looked pristine and vibrant - brand new.

The Permanent Gallery is the focus of the public displays featuring a life-size buffalo robe teepee set up with short tree stumps inside for seating, arranged around the electronic fire. When you enter the teepee a voice system is activated and traditional stories are heard, recorded by the elders years ago. Outside the teepee are various artifacts, photographs, and informational displays set up in chronological order which tell the story of the Utes. These are professionally arranged and beautifully presented. By the way, I expected a buffalo robe teepee to be brown like the outside of a buffalo but it is off-white, a light cream color, which is the result of removing the hair and tanning the hide. Taking photographs in the Permanent Gallery is not allowed, unfortunately.

The library was also open - a bright, cheery room done in orange and natural wood, with new Apple computers set up on tables all around the room. Visitors may access any computer to learn more about the Ute culture. There were no library patrons present when I was there. It would be especially lovely filled with children and adults making use of its facilities.

I learned that many of the artifacts on display were acquired from the Smithsonian Institute. I hope there are other family-owned items or private collections that make their way to this artful center for Southern Ute cultural history. I'd like to visit it again when all the rooms are filled with displays and open to the public.

Outside the building there were native plants growing in sculpted flower beds and each plant was identified. Once these plants grow and spred they will look more natural and the landscaping will be a wonderful part of the beauty of the building.