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New Visitor and Research Center Powered by Sustainable Energy

Story courtesy of Deborah Sherman

Whether it’s the searing middle of summer or the cold depths of winter, the temperature inside Mesa Verde National Park’s visitor and research center stays around 65-degrees. It’s just one of a few museums in the world that uses sustainable energy to protect the park’s historical records and three million objects relating to the history of the park and the region.

“I think it’s a good marriage, a good fit,” Tara Travis, the museum’s curator said. “We’re responsibly caring for these artifacts and we’re also reducing our impact on the planet by using this type of sustainable energy.”

Travis says the facility uses the earth’s energy, which stays at a constant temperature of 50 to 60 degrees, to heat and cool the museum. The relative humidity is kept around 20 to 30-percent to protect the collection.

“What happens in a geothermal structure, is that in the summer, the heat is pumped down into the earth and cooled. And in the winter, it’s just the reverse. So what’s neat about this building is that we’re using sustainable energy to achieve this very stable environment for our museum objects,” Travis said.

The park’s treasures used to be stored in shacks that were built during the 1950’s as park of the Wetherill Mesa Project. Several times, fire threatened to burn up the valuables, and volunteers would have to pack and move the collection off of the mesa to get it out of harm’s way.

The new building is fire-resistant, located in an area not prone to fire and sits at the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park close to firefighters and trucks to best protect the artifacts. The new facility is a LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project.