DEL NORTE — Visiting a library and taking a book home is a special treat, but when archive materials are too precious for transport, the thrill of discovery is reserved for on-site research. Rio Grande County Museum visitors can now access the Grace Beatty Memorial Library in the back of the museum, and staff members can help locate materials and guide research in the new study area.
Open to the public, more than 770 books from the Beatty family archives have been accumulating for several years since Jon Beatty began sharing his large collection of historic documents about the western United States.
Plans for the library evolved as shelving specifications required extra consideration, and the stacks of Beatty books from the Monte Vista family grew bigger than expected.
Iris Wells volunteered to organize the donations, leveraging her library science training to accommodate the on-site archive scenario. The Dewey Decimal System is a proven model for tracking library books. But a museum research lab is different.
Wells created a custom spreadsheet based on author. When she started the project, the books were scattered without order throughout the research area. Although brochures and booklets require final sorting, the project is nearing completion.
In addition to settling in with appropriate seating and lighting, researchers can receive help from museum staff members who are familiar with the system and the historic material. If business hours conclude before visitors can finish combing through books, they can return the next day to resume research.
Jon’s brother, Richard Beatty, stopped by the museum during the 2018 Covered Wagon Days and helped revitalize the library project. The Beatty brothers plan to donate more books from their collection. Also swelling the stacks, the Basil Zeigler collection of history books will be added to the museum’s new research archive area.
Online visitors can now see the current list of books on the Rio Grande County website (https://www.riograndecounty.org/). From the home page title bar, select WHO ARE MY... and click Museum under Community Services to access the Rio Grande County Museum page. Click “Current Book Listing” to display a new tab with 777 books listed (as of Feb. 3, 2019). The spreadsheet continues to grow with more titles.
But to open one of the books and access the text and pictures inside, you must visit the Rio Grande County Museum.
For more information, call the museum at 719-657-2847. You can also send email to [email protected] or check out the Rio Grande County Museum Facebook page. Museum doors open Tuesday through Saturday at 10 a.m., closing at 4 p.m. during the week and 3 p.m. on Saturdays.