Museums

Kit Carson Museum closes temporarily

Museum board renovates and reorganizes while search begins for new director

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Word gets around Taos quickly.

When the Kit Carson Home and Museum closed suddenly Feb. 2, locals were left asking, ‘What happened?’ A sign posted at the front gate stated: “Kit Carson Home and Museum is currently closed for reorganization, renovations, etc. We will reopen as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you for visiting Taos.”

Here’s what did happen. Earlier that week, according to Secretary of the Board Wayne Rutherford, the museum’s board of directors accepted the resignation of Executive Director Karen Douglas.

Until an interim director can be selected, the staff was let go and the museum was closed. During this unusually slow time of year, Rutherford said the closure gives the board time to reorganize.

But, don’t fret, the museum is planning a “soft reopening” next week. “We will be open on limited schedule thereafter. We will be open full time as soon as possible after that,” Rutherford said.

If you had visited the Carson Museum recently, a welcoming staff in the gift shop would have greeted you to begin your tour of all things Kit Carson. Directly across from the gift shop you might have knocked on the door to the office of Karen Douglas. One of the most enthusiastic museum directors in Taos, she would often take the time to give impromptu, knowledgeable and informative tours.

The museum has operated under the guidance of a very active, experienced board, led by President John Smedly Jr. Rutherford, the spokesman during this transition, has been on the board for more than 11 years.

“The former executive director, Karen Douglas, resigned in late January,” Rutherford stated. “The Kit Carson Home and Museum Board appreciate all she has done for the museum, and the board wishes her well in her future endeavors.”

With regard to the board, Douglas said, “They are a great board. They wanted to go in a different direction. They truly love the museum as I do.”

Douglas went on to say, “I had some issues with the direction the board was taking and thought it would be a good time to make a change. I really enjoyed my four years as director.”

The museum will reopen as soon as possible with Interim Director Doug Palmer, a former board member. Palmer is a retired Boy Scouts of America executive with over two decades of service at the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarrón.

Douglas praised her successor, saying, “Doug Palmer is highly experienced and a very good person for the museum to have during this transition.”

Palmer had been executive director from December 2013 to January 2018. During this time the museum expanded their collections, published a book about Josefa Jaramillo Carson (the museum namesake’s Taos wife), received a substantial grant from the National Parks Service for renovations of the home with 2017 proving to be the best year for attendance.

“I feel very good about the success the museum has experienced and very confident that its future will hold the same,” Douglas said in a prepared statement to Tempo. “I often think people overlook the museum. It is truly a historic jewel in Taos. The museum’s guest book was always full of comments about how well this part of American history was presented. This is an amazing platform for successful tourism in Taos. History is fun and exciting, especially when you have such a well-preserved and authentic historic home as the Kit Carson Home and Museum. I love the museum and wish it continued success.”

As for making changes and her next endeavor, Douglas said, “I think I’ll take some time to think about that. My partner, David Carson, author of ‘Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals,’ and I have been contemplating starting a foundation for animal welfare. ‘Medicine Cards’ has sold millions of copies worldwide since 1989. To continue on that success and contribute to the well-being of animals would be rewarding, We’ll see, new beginnings are exciting.”

Name recognition gives the Kit Carson Home and Museum a great advantage to be among the most popular visitor destinations in Taos. Upwards of 20,000 visitors per year is an astounding figure for a historic home here.

Until the museum reopens with regular hours, private tours can be arranged. The building is owned by Bent Lodge No. 42 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and is leased to a wholly separate private nonprofit entity, the Kit Carson Home and Museum, Inc.

Bent Lodge No.42 AF&AM is bound by a condition of the 1909 purchase of the property to maintain the building as a memorial to Brother Kit Carson in perpetuity. That responsibility is currently shouldered by the museum.

Visitors can contact Palmer via email: doug.palmer1945@gmail.com, or Cissy McCrary cissymccrary@gmail.com or by phone at (575) 758-4945. Please give a bit of advance notice when inquiring about a private tour. The board is committed to accommodating out-of-town visitors who may travel to Taos specifically to visit the Kit Carson Home and Museum.

As separate entities yet part of the overall property, Angie Coleman Fine Arts and Amore Gallery are unaffected by the temporary closing of the Carson Museum.

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