Colorado museum is the best in the West

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There are many reasons why we Coloradans love our state. Colorado keeps collecting accolades that prove time and time again why we truly are the best in the West. And here's the latest: Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum in Ignacio has been rated the "Top Western Museum" by True West magazine.

The museum, which opened in May 2011, boasts an extensive library and archives that include photos, recordings and other historical material based on the oral histories of tribal elders. The permanent exhibit provides thorough information on the Utes -- from their perspective -- and takes visitors on a historical journey, starting with early rock art. The outdoor space further commemorates the Ute culture, with a stream and herb garden surrounded by hiking trails and ponds.

A temporary gallery that focuses on the Southern Ute tribe has featured classic Indian motorcycles and will next showcase baskets from around the world that were inspired by Ute work.

Lynn Brittner, director of the museum, credits the museum's popularity to its unique mission and the engaging design of its exhibits. "Our first year we really made an impact on the local economy, bringing in tourists from all around the world," says Brittner. "This is an experience for visitors to come and learn about the indigenous people of this area. We are very much a cultural entity, not just a museum."

Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave in Golden, a previous number one pick, ranked fourth this round; Cripple Creek District Museum ranked ninth on the list.

For more information on the True West awards, visit www.truewestmagazine.com.

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