Guns, baseballs, and Lincoln’s hair: Oddities abound at the R.H. Crossland Museum

by Patty Templeton

You may not know you need to see pen pal letters between Titanic survivors, but you do, and you can, at the R.H. Crossland Foundation Museum.

This downtown Durango storefront (835 Main Ave. #108) is crammed fulla yesteryear treasures. I shit you not – your jaw will drop. If you’re a history dork, like me, you can easily spend an entire afternoon here and leave with heart palpitations.

This dude, Rusty Crossland, has an enormous collection of Indiana Jones-esque artifacts. What do I mean? I mean, you can see a clipping of Abe Lincoln’s hair, which had been presented to a surgeon who attended his deathbed. To take that to an extreme, that means you can stand in front of hair that was present when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. So effin epic.

What’s more than a half-century old and in Durango? A document signed by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain from 1495, i.e. the royals that sent Christopher Columbus to sail the ocean blue in 1492.

This place has balls. Seriously. There’s a metric f-ton of baseball memorabilia. A Ty Cobb letter? Yep. A baseball signed by Babe Ruth and other New York Yankees from 1922, yup.

Or, hey, keep walkin’ and find a piece of famed outlaw Jesse James’ coffin and the vintage newspaper illustrating his grave.

None of this has you hot and history-bothered? Well, you might be dead inside. Maybe standing in front of a 1934 newspaper headlining Bonnie and Clyde’s death, a 1787 doc signed by Benjamin Franklin, or Sitting Bull’s autograph will revivify you. Also present, Wyatt Earp’s Colt 45, vintage western comics, a confederate Civil War drum, personal letters from Patsy Cline from two years before she died – and, speaking of letters! – ever wonder what George Washington’s handwriting looked like? You can see it in PERSON. The museum has a letter written by the first frikkin president of these United States. ::brain ’splode::

And all of these wonders? FREE! The R.H. Crossland Foundation Museum is totally free and you don’t need some fancy-pants appointment to see the antiquities it holds. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If it’s locked, give a knock. If there’s no answer, give a call. The museum caretaker also runs an insurance office out of the back and might not have heard you. Sound weird? It is. Just go with it. Everyone’s nice who works there.

Author Robert Penn Warren said, “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity so that we can better face the future.” The R.H. Crossland Foundation Museum provides the opportunity to witness and personalize history through rare objects.

It’s effing awesome. It’s free. What are you waiting for?

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