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Mortar & pestle goes back to Silverton on Narrow Gauge Railroad


Ray Delio

Scott Fetchenhier (right) of the San Juan County (colorado) Historical Society receives the mortar and pestle from Susan Jones (left), historic narrator for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

It's a good problem to have...many museums are running out of space. The need for exhibit and collections storage space is so critical, some museums have declared a moratorium on new donations. Most museums are constantly reviewing the items they already have, to ensure they are appropriate to the mission of the museum. Such was the case recently in Aztec when Museum Director Jordan Taher began investigating a mortar and pestle that had been at the museum for years. The set was donated by an Aztec resident who found the mortar and pestle, originally used in an assay office, while exploring in the Animas Forks area. Appreciating their significance, he took them home and eventually donated them to the museum. Taher realized that the set was important to the history of San Juan County, Colorado and contacted the historical society in Silverton. Volunteers at the SJCHS were thrilled at the prospect. Said Taher, "We have enjoyed having the mortar and pestle on exhibit, but they are part of Silverton's rich history. They should go home, and tell their story where it happened."

The assay equipment would have originally arrived in Silverton on the Denver & Rio Grande railroad, so it was decided to return them by rail as well. Susan Jones, historic narrator for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, offered to escort the set. The antique mortar and pestle arrived by rail on June 7, much as they arrived when new. History has come full circle.

The San Juan County Mining Heritage Center is open 10-5 through Sept 30 and the Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9-4.


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