Museum dedicated to East Troublesome Fire holds powerful place in many people’s hearts |

Museum dedicated to East Troublesome Fire holds powerful place in many people’s hearts

Visitors of the Troublesome Stories exhibit in June look at the photography of Thomas Cooper, a photojournalist who captured the East Troublesome Fire.
McKenna Harford / Sky-Hi News

Displaying photographs and artifacts from the East Troublesome Fire, Grand Lake’s Troublesome Stories has only been open for over three months, but the exhibit has been viewed by over 13,000 people.

Given its immediate impact on the community and efforts to educate Grand County’s visitors about preventing wildfires, it’s no surprise Troublesome Stories was named the best museum in Grand County this year.

“It means a lot to myself and my team because we really did pour a lot of heart into putting this exhibit together,” Grand Lake Chamber Executive Director Emily Hagen said. “I think it shows that the exhibit has done what it was supposed to, which was to be a tool for healing and helping others understand.”

Set up by the chamber, Studio 8369 owner Laura Kratz and Thomas Cooper, a photojournalist who covers wildfires, the museum not only serves as a reminder of what was lost in the fire that burned over 200,000 acres, it has educated visitors and helped locals recover.

Inside the museum, Cooper’s photos are accompanied by the charred metal remnants of a banjo, pasta maker, wedding veil, pocket knife, truck parts and other items that help tell the story of Grand County’s historic experience last year.

Items featured in the exhibit were donated by locals who lost their homes or businesses. The East Troublesome destroyed over 500 buildings, with over 350 of them being primary residences.
McKenna Harford/

Hagen said she knows the exhibit has accurately conveyed the experience of the East Troublesome when visitors leave the exhibit visibly changed.

“You can see it on their faces when they walk in and look around and then their posture changes,” she said. “It’s such a powerful thing and a vulnerable thing, especially for people who lost things to the fire. I don’t take it lightly that they trusted me to be the steward of some of the only things they recovered from their homes.”

The roughly 75 artifacts and 20 photographs will remain on display at the Pitkin House in Grand Lake through the end of October.

Hagen said the museum’s ability to remain open on a daily basis since opening on June 29 is because of a dedicated group of 18 volunteers, who have manned the exhibit from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

“It’s been really humbling to see our community circle up around this project,” Hagen said.

Come November, the exhibit will move to a new location that hadn’t yet been determined. However, the moved exhibit will feature some new artifacts and photographs from Cooper. Some of the current artifacts on display were exhibited on loan, and Hagen plans to use it as an opportunity to update the displays.

In addition, Hagen commissioned Cooper to photograph the exhibit currently at the Pitkin House, which will become a coffee table book along with more of Cooper’s photographs and new local stories.

“It will have some more hopeful content because it’s coming up on a year now, and I want the recovery included,” she said.

Hagen hopes the book will be out this winter.


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