The Otero Museum Association was incorporated in 1984. Its purpose was to establish a museum documenting and illustrating the history of Otero County in southeastern Colorado. The Otero County Historical Society donated an extensive collection of artifacts, which served as the core of the museum's exhibits. Thousands of other items have been donated by local residents. The museum's primary historical coverage ranges from approximately 1875 through the end of World War II. As with other, similar museums, the exhibits are designed and arranged to give insight into how residents of the area lived and conducted their business during the time span covered. The museum has exhibits illustrating transportation, military, postal, agricultural, business, schools, and many other aspects of life from pioneer times through the entrance of the nation onto the world stage. Specific exhibits cover the railroads, which profoundly affected the area economically and culturally; the military, which was particularly significant through its presence at the World War II airbase north of La Junta; agriculture, which has always been and remains the center of economic life in Otero County; and various small businesses as existed through the first half of the 20th century.
The museum's railroad collection centers on the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad and the Kansas Pacific Railroad. The collection includes a 1939 Plymouth switch engine and a AT&SF boxcar, in the yard to the west of the museum. The collection also includes cutaway views and examples of locomotive and other train parts, as used for training by the railroad.
The interior displays include a complete telegraph office; period railroad uniforms; watches; lanterns; an AT&SF railroad calendar collection spanning the period 1914 through 1993; an historical photograph collection, and hundreds of other items related to railroads. Kids, young and old, can push a button to 'blow' an 1897 steam locomotive whistle. While most of the exhibits are displayed in the main museum building located at the corner of 3rd Street and Anderson Avenue, the museum has two major exterior exhibits on the grounds. The Sciumbato house and grocery store are on the National Historic Register. Daniel and Mary Sciumbato lived in the house and operated the grocery store from 1901 to 1974. The house is furnished in a style consistent with that of the early 1900's, including a 'fainting' bed, a complete dining room, kitchen with kerosene range and ice box, fully furnished bedrooms, and clothing displays, including a black wedding dress from the late 1800's. A toy collection from the period rounds out the collections displayed in the house. The grocery store was added to the residence in 1916. Museum staff have stocked the store with old tins, a meat counter, scales, and all of the other things you would expect in a neighborhood grocery store of that period.
Admission is free to our seven building Museum (see below), though donations are greatly appreciated. A volunteer tour guide well-versed in the displays and the local area takes every visitor on a guided tour. Please allow one to two hours for your tour. Our hours of operation are 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM Monday through Saturday, from June 1 through September 30. Depending on availability of volunteer staff, special tours may be arranged during the off-season by calling 719.384.7500. Please give us as much advance notice as possible.