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The Colter Bay Visitor Center opens for the 2012 summer season on Saturday, May 26 with a fresh new look. Located in Grand Teton National Park on the eastshore of Jackson Lake, the visitor center welcomes over 260,000 people each year and provides information, interpretive exhibits and the opportunity to view objects from a priceless collection of American Indian artifacts donated to the National Park Service (NPS) by Laurance S. Rockefeller. Over the course of the winter, a park maintenance crew worked diligently to renovate the interior space of the visitor center and improve the look and function of this facility for visitors to this popular destination. Planners from the NPS' Harpers Ferry Center in West Virginia designed and constructed new interpretive exhibits, and curatorial staff from the NPS' Western Archaeology and Conservation Center (WACC) at Tucson, Arizona helped create exhibits for display of the cultural objects.
The renovation and new layout recaptures elements of an original NPS Mission 66 design that greeted visitors when the building first opened in 1959. The current arrangement focuses most prominently on a striking view of Mount Moran across the waters of Colter Bay; the floor space includes a spacious lobby with information desk and exhibits, a brightly-lit Grand Teton Association bookstore, a cozy demonstration area for American Indian guest artists, an auditorium, and an intimate museum room that highlights and displays artifacts from the David T. Vernon Indian Art collection-a nationally significant collection that represents over 100 tribes from Alaska to the East Coast.
The building interior was renovated following the closing last October of the Colter Bay Visitor Center and Indian Arts Museum. Built and dedicated in 1972, the museum section of the building housed 1,428 objects that comprise the Vernon Collection, and displayed a representative portion of that collection. Beginning in 2005, pieces from this collection were sent for critical conservation treatment to the WACC facility in Tucson. A new exhibit in the refurbished visitor center features 35 Vernon Collection objects that have been returned to Grand Teton per the requirement of the collection donor, Laurance S. Rockefeller. These returned pieces were not previously displayed; however, they are now on exhibit in specially designed cases that meet museum standards for care. The remaining Vernon Collection pieces will be returned to Grand Teton once a proper facility is available that can house and protect the entire collection under the requisite museum/exhibit standards.
"I hope both local residents and visitors from near and far stop by to see the improvements made to the Colter Bay Visitor Center," said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. "The modest renovation of this building buys us time in which to develop a comprehensive plan for improving facilities and services provided by the National Park Service at Colter Bay. We anticipate that later this year, we'll be able to release a plan and launch an environmental assessment that addresses the need for better visitor services at this location. In the meantime, the 'facelift' of the Colter Bay Visitor Center is both welcome and refreshing, and I encourage all to come and experience the results of a project that was accomplished on time and under budget thanks to our park staff and their dedicated efforts."
Last updated: February 24, 2015