The Challenge of Maintaining National Museum Accreditation

The Museums of Western Colorado (MWC) offers a full and comprehensive range of educational and interactive exhibits focusing on a variety of topics. With a paleontology museum, a regional history museum, and a working historic agricultural and transportation museum, the three sites offer something for everyone. With this responsibility, however, comes the challenge of maintaining each facility to a high standard of quality.

The history of the Museum (Dinosaur Journey, Museum of the West, and Cross Orchards Historic Site) began in 1966 when the Museums of Arts and Sciences incorporated in 1965, then opened in 1966 in the former Whitman School at 4th and Ute. It was renamed the Historical Museum and Institute of Western Colorado in 1968, and to Museum of Western Colorado in 1977.   

In 1980, the Museum of Western Colorado acquired the remaining acreage of the former Red Cross Land and Fruita Company, and opened Cross Orchards Historic Site. The Museum expanded again when Dinosaur Valley in downtown Grand Junction opened in 1985 in the Reed Building at 4th and Main. In 2000, when the Museum acquired the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Fruita, exhibits and collections were transferred to that facility and renamed Dinosaur Journey Museum.

Also in 2000, what had originally been the main museum (in the Whitman School) moved to the renovated C.D. Smith warehouse at 5th and Ute, and was renamed the Museum of the West. The Whitman School building then became our Educational Center and is used for programming and rentals. 

In 2015, in honor of our 50th year and to reflect the fact, as the umbrella institution, that we encompass more than a single building or discipline, we changed our name to the Museums of Western Colorado (using the plural rather than singular museum).

When the Museum was accredited in 1971 by the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums – AAM), it was the 28th in the nation and 2nd in the state to qualify for this designation. When reevaluated for that status in both 1982 and 1996, the Museum continued not only to meet but exceed all standards required. In 2009, the Museum was awarded a 4th accreditation which placed us in the top 1% of museums in the country “recognized as adhering to best standards by the AAM in terms of budget, preservation, and conservation, among other criteria.”   

Maintaining our Museum sites to the standard of a national accreditation presents a constant challenge, according to Museums of Western Colorado Executive Director Dr. Peter Booth. “We are proud to be nationally ranked among accredited museums, yet with this honor comes the significant challenge of maintaining multi-disciplinary museums and multi-sites. We hope the community will keep us in mind and continue to support the MWC.”

Our sites’ roofs all suffer from wear, tear, and damage, and repairs are needed at the MWC’s Whitman Educational Center, Dinosaur Journey, and Cross Orchards Historic Site. Most recently, Cross Orchards experienced wind damage to its 1940s farm house.

These roofing challenges have been partially met by the community’s good will in the past from support from individuals and organizations such as Lions Club (Museum of the West/Whitman Educational Center); The Giving Club (Dinosaur Journey); the City of Fruita (Dinosaur Journey); and numerous volunteers and donations including Roger Taylor of Discount Lumber and Metal Roofing and Eric Carlton of Innovative Expressions (Cross Orchards Historic Site). 

To continue to provide a quality museum standard, and to continue to offer a fully comprehensive range of educational and interactive exhibits, the MWC needs the support of the community. “We are committed to being good stewards of our community resources that we hold in the public trust, and we encourage all community members to help us continue to provide quality standards by supporting all three of our multi-disciplinary museums and sites,” says Dr. Booth.

To find out more about the Museums of Western Colorado, visit