Ouray Historical Museum

“Best little museum in the west.” . . . Smithsonian Institute

By Kate Kellogg, OCHS staff
All content © San Juan Publishing Group, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Ouray Historical Museum
[Ouray, Colorado] HUNDREDS OF VISITORS each year revisit the mining boom days of Ouray County in western Colorado at the “best little museum in the west.” The Ouray County Historical Museum received that accolade from none other than the Smithsonian Institute.

The museum is housed in the original St. Joseph’s Miner’s Hospital that was completed in 1887 for the miners and families of Ouray. First operated by the Sisters of Mercy, it served as a hospital for 77 years, closing in 1964.  The Ouray County Historical Society purchased the building in 1976.

Since then, the museum has continued to grow, now offering more than 38 exhibits comprised of historic artifacts, photographs and hands-on displays. All illustrate the fascinating history of Ouray County from the days of its early inhabitants, the Ute Indians, through two World Wars and 20th Century changes.

The museum includes three floors with 27 rooms plus two pioneer cabins and rancher Marie Scott’s carriage. The beautifully preserved building makes use of its alcoves and original hospital dumb waiters to display smaller exhibits.

The enormous array of artifacts date back to Ouray’s earliest days, which began in 1875.  The museum emphasizes mining, ranching and railroading, the three main means of employment in Ouray’s early history.  Original hospital rooms are equipped to show two different eras of medical care.  Displays of early ranchers’ rough implements and upper-class Victorian furnishings show the contrasting lifestyles that co-existed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Detailed mining exhibits include a walk-through replica of a mine and large gem and mineral collection from local mines.

The museum also features a bookstore, research center, extensive photo archive and the W. Ross Moore Mining History Library of the American West.

420 Sixth Avenue.
Ouray, Colorado
Hours – click here.


Ouray County Historical Museum. ©Kathryn R. Burke

Be sure to visit the mining exhibits on the bottom (basement) floor. You’ll see a walk-through replica of a working mine, an assay office and mineral room. When you come in upstairs, in the room on your left, is an old soda fountain from Ouay in the WWII era.

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