GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Dr. Peter Booth has long been interested in heritage - "ever since grade school," he said. "And I truly see the knowledge of history, heritage and culture as vital to a healthy community that can (make) informed decisions about the future."
Booth, 49, who recently took the helm at the Museum of Western Colorado, also strongly believes that a museum shouldn't be viewed by the public as "a storehouse for old stuff."
Rather, he sees museums as "key cultural institutions, dedicated toward helping a community preserve its heritage and tell its story."
The new executive director took the reins last month from Mike Perry, who will stay on with the organization as director of its travel tours and other related programs. Though Booth moved from Salem, Ore., to take his new post in January, Colorado has long held his interest and he's excited to call Grand Junction home.
"It was something I couldn't pass up," Booth said of the director position at the nationally accredited Museum of Western Colorado, which spans the Museum of the West, Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, and the Cross Orchards historic site.
"This particular museum has incredible resources in its staff," he added.
With its particularly strong curatorial staff in anthropology, paleontology and history, Booth additionally said "that opens up opportunities for expanded programming and opportunities."
There's no master plan in place for upgrades and new projects, however. Rather, Booth will be working hard with the museum board in a "calculated study" and "strategic analysis" of "what's out there" before identifying additional programming or any changes in store for the museum.
"Every time one approaches a new position, one needs a good understanding of (the organization's) strengths and weaknesses," he said.
Booth did, however, confirm that the museum's trip program - Passport to Adventure - will be expanding. Currently, it hosts trips and tours both locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Tours in 2013 will visit a variety of places, including Telluride, museums in Denver, national parks in Utah, western Canada and even Iceland.
"We look forward to working with Dr. Booth," Museum of Western Colorado Assistant Director Kay Fiegel said. "His leadership, experience, expertise and energy will be a tremendous asset to the Museum of Western Colorado."
Before moving to Grand Junction, Booth led the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Ore. He's worked at a number of locations spanning Oregon and Arizona throughout his museums-based career. Booth also received his Ph.D. from Purdue University, studying a variety of American histories (including that of the Western U.S., Native Americans and Latin America).
With a strong focus on West Slope history (think Wild West outlaws and old guns), plus exhibits displaying Native American artifacts (like the Anasazi and Ute), the Museum of Western Colorado was a good fit for his interests, Booth said.
Booth has long felt connected to Colorado, too. His family's heritage in the state can be traced to his great-grandparents, who lived in the Pueblo area during the 1880s. Plus, Booth was born in Denver, though he grew up elsewhere.
"It's a beautiful area," he said of the Grand Valley. "Outdoor recreation opportunities abound - like hiking, biking (when it warms up) ... and fishing."
And his young sons - Albert, Owen and Anthony - are enjoying the snow, Booth added.