*Grant Update: The deadline to submit 2022 CWAM Grant Applications has been extended to Friday, June 3 at 5 pm. Grant recipients will be notified of their grant by July 1, 2022.

The application for 2022 CWAM grants is now open! If you didn’t have a chance to chat with our grant coordinator at the annual meeting last week, you can contact us below with any questions.

Questions? Contact us.


Past CWAM Grant Success Stories

Aurora History Museum & Historic Sites – Virtual Programming Equipment, 2020

The CWAM grant funding allowed us to purchase a Chromebook, travel case, and supplies needed to create a take home camp kit. Last year prompted the Aurora History Museum & Historic Sites to look for ways to continue to engage with the community through online platforms. The education team faced some difficult technical issues, most notably accessing popular online meeting platforms, such as Zoom and GoogleMeet, while using city equipment. Our solution was to host our programs using an independent laptop. Our Chromebook allowed us to host our summer camp online and gave us the flexibility to host and attend meetings from home and the historic sites. In addition to the Chromebook, we purchased the extra supplies necessary to adapt the summer camp from an in-person program to a take-home camp kit. Our museum educator met with the campers daily to discuss the historical context related to the day’s theme and helped guide the campers through some of the more complicated activities. Thanks for the funding provided by CWAM, our fledging summer camp successfully moved to an online format that had active participation from campers and positive feedback from parents. While not an ideal way to host our camp, we were excited that we were able to provide this fun and educational experience to the community during the shutdown.

AHMHS now has a hotspot and laptop that connects with whatever platform the group is using to provide a virtual tour of the museum or our historic sites. Looking forward, we plan to continue to experiment with using the Chromebook to host online programs, such as adding a virtual option to our lecture series. CWAM grant funding aided the expansion of our programming during 2020 when AHMHS, like many cultural institutions, was closed.  Now that we have a foundation in virtual programming it is possible for AHMHS to continue to grow our engagement opportunities in order to better serve those not able to visit the museum or historic sites in person.

Sheridan County Museum for the project “Book and Pamphlet Rehousing”, 2020

The mission of the Museum at the Bighorns is to preserve and share our rich historical and cultural heritage of the Sheridan County Area with present and future generations in order to promote a greater understanding of the American West. To this end our goals are: To collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit historical materials relating to the history of our mission area, provide educational opportunities for people of all ages to promote our mission, and promote and encourage historical entities and programs in our mission area. Our general audience consists of the residents of Sheridan County, Wyoming. Our audience also consists of American and international tourists traveling through Wyoming.

The CWAM grant supported the rehousing and organization of our book and pamphlet collection. With the grant funds we purchased archival book trays, folder stock, a cutting matt, and bone folder. The archival supplies allowed us to focus some much needed attention on these items over a six month period. Creating a dedicated storage space for books was an important goal of this project. Previously, the books were housed like library books on our rolling shelving units. Books were also scattered throughout other areas of the collection. They now sit in archival book trays, which allow for easy movement, and significantly reduce the chance of a book falling off the shelf. Books with unstable binding were set aside, and custom folders were made from the archival folder stock.  Staff moved other types of items, such as magazines, stock certificates, and letters, to other areas of our archive storage.

Our collection of pamphlets was stored in archival boxes, but lacked archival material between them. Using materials purchased with grant funds and existing supplies, the pamphlets were rehoused. Some pamphlets had custom folders or containers made by the Collections Manager from the archival folder stock. 

During the rehousing project we also made sure each item rehoused had a catalog number and was entered into our Past Perfect database. The project added around 150 entries to the database. Staff update item locations and descriptions of existing records as well.  

The staff and board for the Museum at the Bighorns thanks CWAM for the generous support of this much needed rehousing project!

“Two Ways Out of My House” – Fire safety interactive revitalization. Denver Firefighters Museum, 2019

Established in 1978, the Denver Firefighters Museum exists for two major reasons: to preserve and interpret the history of the Denver Fire Department, and to present vital fire safety programming to community members. This unique programming is accessible both as outreach to schools, community groups, senior centers, and other civic organizations; and as in-house exhibits and activities.

Given that a large portion of the DFM’s visitors include families with elementary-aged children, fire safety information must be presented in a fun, easily understood manner that is accessible to young children as well as adults. To that end, the education department presents safety information using child-appropriate language and with plenty of interactive elements to engage all learners.

Educational programming and activities include potentially tense questions that ask visitors to imagine emergency scenarios, such as “What would you do if your home was on fire?” and “What should you do if your clothes catch on fire?” Giving visitors the chance to practice these concepts in a safe, friendly space such as the museum is an important first step to helping everyone learn fire safety essentials.

The DFM was awarded a grant from CWAM in order to improve one of its interactive spaces, “Two Ways Out of My House”. This activity encourages visitors to consider what they would do if a fire started in their home. This activity reinforces concepts such as crawling low under smoke, feeling doors before opening them, and reaching a safe meeting place once outside. For young visitors especially, the interactive nature of this space is key to helping them understand these life-saving concepts.

This grant allowed the DFM to print high-quality vinyl decals to cover some of the aging surfaces in the activity. The new decals have a strong adhesive backing and UV-resistant inks, ensuring that they will stay in place and look good for years to come. Illustrations created by the education department depict a home interior that helps visitors immerse themselves in the space.

Other surfaces in “Two Ways Out of My House” received a fresh coat of paint, also purchased with grant funds. To increase engagement within the space, the DFM also installed flip panels. These panels ask further questions about fire escape plans and general home safety, while reinforcing existing safety concepts already within the space. These flip panels are already familiar to many museum guests and will be especially accessible for young children exploring the space.

Thanks to this grant, an aging activity has received new life. We expect that it will now stand for more years to come, delivering important safety concepts in a fun, interactive way.

Two Ways Out (Before)

Two Ways Out (After)

Two Ways Out (After)

Russel Hawley: A Thousand Unnamed Worlds at the Wyoming State Museum

This CWAM grant supported a six-month exhibit at The Wyoming State Museum of the paleontological illustrations of Russell Hawley, of Casper, WY.  Due to its popularity, we have extended the exhibit through the year. Russell is the artist-in-residence at the Tate Geological Museum in Casper. The show at the Wyoming State Museum consists of his detailed, scientifically accurate drawings of extinct plant and animal life based on Wyoming’s fossil record. This exhibit brings his original, hand-drawn illustrations to the museum, which would be displayed alongside an explanation of Mr. Hawleys process of creating lifelike illustrations from ancient partial skeletons. To accompany the 22 artworks in the show, Mr. Hawley wrote a paragraph-long explanation for each piece, explaining the creatures in detail, where they were found, and how he translated their remains into an illustration of living dinosaurs. These labels also noted when the most current science had deviated from what was available at the time the drawing was made, in some cases indicating feathers where Mr. Hawley had drawn scales, etc. These textual additions to the exhibit helped demonstrate for our visitors not only the knowledge and creativity required to imaging Wyoming’s paleontological past, but how new science is always further refining our understanding of history.

The CWAM grant covered a $250 honorarium for Mr. Hawley, the cost of shipping the work from Casper to Cheyenne and back, as well as defraying the costs of some framing and exhibit supplies. In total, the Wyoming State Museum re-matted and re-framed 11 of the 22 works with archival materials for the show (image attached). Ten percent of the grant was to go toward promotion, including a targeted Facebook ad and featured Instagram posts. The museum also designed a custom show postcard (image attached) which was available around town, at the welcome center outside Cheyenne, and in the museum. Advertising for the show also appeared in the community calendar on the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle website, and the PIO office of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources sent out a press release to its list.

I believe this exhibit represented a unique opportunity for the Wyoming State Museum and the public we serve. Credit for CWAM’s generous support was given on the main exhibit text.

Guidestone Colorado Grant for Conservation

Hutchinson Homestead Keyed Melodeon, c1850s Before-After

Guidestone Colorado was awarded a 2018 CWAM Grant for the conservation/ stabilization treatment of a keyed melodeon c1850s that is part of the Hutchinson Homestead Collections. This melodeon, having traveled with Annabel McPherson Hutchinson’s family in a covered wagon in 1860, has a unique story to tell in the history of the Hutchinson Homestead. The Hutchinson Homestead was established in 1868 when Joseph Sykes Hutchinson and Annabel McPherson married and established a cattle ranch along the South Arkansas River in what is now southern Chaffee County. Today, this 150-year story is told through interpretive materials and the extensive collection of primary sources (photographs, journals, letters, and ledgers), artifacts and oral histories that six generations of the Hutchinson Family have kept and maintained. The keyed melodeon is one such item, and it brings a link to early pioneer history that pre-dates the Homestead itself. Annabel McPherson’s family traveled across the prairie from Wisconsin to Colorado in an oxen-train of covered wagons in 1860, when Annabel was 12 years old. This melodeon was one of the items brought with the family on this long journey, clearly significant enough to Annabel’s mother, Helen McPherson, to find room in the limited space of the wagon to not be left behind. Family stories tell how this melodeon was also a prized possession of Annabel’s, and the Hutchinson family has maintained it to the best of their abilities over the years. Today the melodeon still resides in the historic Ranch House, on display in the parlor, and is highlighted in the guided tours. Due to two serious breaks of the front leg/body joints, however, the melodeon had been propped up on wooden blocks just off the floor and was in dire need of stabilization treatment to help ensure no further damage was done. Thanks to the CWAM grant, we were able to hire Mark Minor, Conservation of Wooden Artifacts, who has 28 years of extensive experience in conservation, restoration and historic preservation of wooden artifacts and was the contract specialist on this project. The short-term benefit of this conservation/ stabilization treatment was to provide support to the structure of the main body of the instrument and allow the legs to be reattached in their proper orientation, thereby protecting the integrity of the instrument, getting it off the floor and protecting it from further damage. The long-term benefit of this work is in the story the melodeon will continue to tell to future generations of both the Hutchinson Family and visitors to the Hutchinson Homestead. As the provenance of this melodeon includes over 150 years in the same family and incorporates early pioneer and homesteading history of our region, it is truly a unique artifact with rich cultural detail. Visitors will have the opportunity to see and learn about this history with the personal touch of an item that was important to these early settlers, and valued by the family through generations. It has been really wonderful to have the melodeon back on its legs and be able to share it with visitors and school groups in its upright glory! Thank you, CWAM!!!

Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, Interactive Exhibit Programs

Jackson Hole, WY

“As a local museum in Jackson Hole, the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum (JHHSM) serves a variety of patrons of all ages and interests. The CWAM funding allowed the JHHSM to expand and enrich programming for young children, families, and visitors interested in a more interactive experience. We see many visitors throughout the summer and winter months that are looking for a fun way for their families to engage with local history—especially when the weather is snowy or rainy. Since many of our permanent exhibits are set up in “scenes” displaying homesteading, cattle ranching and dude ranching, we decided to use these surroundings as inspiration for our children’s activities.

We used the grant money to get Legos, stamps, postcards and a photo booth banner. The Legos encourages young visitors and students to create their own homestead and consider the challenges the original settlers had in “proving up their land”. Where would your water sources be? How would you grow food? What structures would you need? Research shows that using play to learn, allows students to internalize and apply their learnings. After observing and learning about a typical homestead cabin in the exhibit, visitors have a chance to design and construct their own homestead.

Additionally, we set up stamps and postcards to allow students to write home about their visit in Jackson Hole. Not only does this encourage literacy skills but is grounded in historical context as many dudes/dudines of the dude ranching era wrote letters home. This portion of the grant grew and expanded to provide content for other program areas. In our after school programming, we saw students excited to learn calligraphy skills so we also have a calligraphy station set up in the museum gallery space now. Lastly, our photo booth banner encouraged young visitors to play and have fun while engaging with history. In addition to putting up a banner, we also put out some of our previously acquired historic costumes for children. We saw children of all ages in fuzzy chaps and jean vest taking pictures and posing as cowboys and ranchers. We purchased a Polaroid camera and encouraged guests to take pictures to take home. (The Polaroid camera encouraged as many adults as children to have fun taking pictures in historic costumes!)

The CWAM grant allowed the museum to give patrons a chance to engage with history in a fun and unique experience. We saw children and adults alike taking pictures, playing with Legos and writing home on postcards. And as a result, they asked more questions about what it was like to be a cowboy or rancher at that time and thought creatively about past lifeways in Jackson Hole! Overall, through these visual and interactive additions to the exhibits, we achieved our goal of making the museum gallery more accessible for children and second-language learners.”

— Final report submitted by Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, June 2019. (Download the JHHSM final report.)

Animas Museum, La Plata County Historical Society


The mission of the Animas Museum, owned and operated by the La Plata County Historical Society, is to keep La Plata County history and culture alive for present and future generations.” The Animas Museum strives to fulfill its mission through public programming, events, and exhibits. Increasingly, this also means public access to our collections via our website and social media. 

We used this grant funding from the Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums to digitize 37 of our 55 cassette tape interviews. The purpose of this project was to better preserve the interviews recorded on these tapes, and to transfer them to a medium that was more accessible to interested parties. Working together with Casey Carroll and Steve Rich from the San Juan County Historical Society in Silverton, Colorado, we sent 37 cassette tapes to them to be digitized and recorded on CDs. The price for this service was $10 per 60 minutes of audio recording. 

Before the start of this grant project, the public was not aware of the existence of these 55 interviews housed at the Animas Museum, despite them being from prominent people in Southwest history. Some of the people recorded on the tapes currently completed include: Jim Colvig, A.C. Robbins, Helen Berket, Glenn Phillips, Lora Bell Peterson, Frank Begay, Elizabeth Ann Moris, Duane Smith, Art Rohn, Jim Judge, Louis Smith Jr., Edith Rhodes, Amy Thompson, Joe Ben Wheat, Susan Riches, Art Wyatt, and many more.  

This grant has allowed the Animas Museum to better preserve these informative interviews from many prominent people in Southwest Colorado history who have now passed on. Additionally, we now have them available for public use. 

This project became even more essential in the days since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. By putting these digitized interviews into our museum Dropbox, our museum volunteers have been able to listen to them and write up summaries. These summaries will be posted by the interview title on our website. This step was not in our original grant application, but we were able to make it part of the process once the Animas Museum had to close its doors. While the summary process in not yet completed and the website is still being updated, this step proved to be necessary to provide potential listeners with more information about the interviews and their quality. It was also a great way to get out volunteers involved in the project from the safety of their own homes. 

As the Animas Museum has been closed since March 14, 2020 due to the pandemic, the online availability of these interviews also allows us another way to interact, not just with the planned historical researchers or genealogists, but also with our broader community. While we have continued to reach out to the public with virtual exhibits and videos, the digitization of these interviews adds additional resources to our website at a time when they are most useful. 

Link to the cassette tape page of the Animas Museum Website: http://animasmuseum.org/audio_collection.html

Homelake Veterans History Center Museum

Homelake, CO


Archive project, Homelake Veterans History Center Museum

The Homelake Veterans History Center Museum received $500 from CWAM to purchase metal shelving from Certified Business Services. Boxes full of Museum archives, once stacked on top of each other and in danger of being damaged, were safely stored on metal shelving.

Sweetwater County Historical Museum

Green River, WY

With a CWAM grant, Sweetwater County Historical Museum created an education trunk for elementary schools. Available for local teachers to use in their classroom, the trunk focuses on Sweetwater County’s multicultural history. Each summer the Sweetwater Museum hires an intern. The 2013 summer intern worked with the Museum Curator and Exhibits Coordinator to develop the “Discovering Diversity” trunk. The trunk meets several 3rd grade curriculum standards and includes lesson plans, touchable artifacts and activities. For more information on the trunk: http://www.sweetwatermuseum.org/index.php/learn/trunk-program