FARMINGTON — When Farmington Museum Director Bart Wilsey moved to the city, the museum was just being finished, he told a crowd gathered in the building on Wednesday.

Now, 15 years later, Wilsey and about 50 others met in the museum to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the building's new, 7,500-square-foot wing. When completed, the wing will house an exhibit that focuses on the history of the oil and natural gas industry in the San Juan Basin.

"It's wonderful," said Nancy Coats. "They've needed it for a long while."

Coats has lived in Farmington for 55 years, but, she said, she still learns more about her city when she visits the museum.

At center, Farmington Museum Director Bart Wilsey stands on Wednesday with members of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce Redcoats and Farmington Mayor
At center, Farmington Museum Director Bart Wilsey stands on Wednesday with members of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce Redcoats and Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the museum's new, 7,500-square-foot wing. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

The expansion of the wing and a 2,500-square-foot collection storage space cost $2.3 million, Administrative Services Director Andy Mason has said. The city generated the funds by refinancing bonds as part of a $9 million bonding project.

Wilsey said $1 million is still needed for the wing to reach its funding goal.

Construction on the wing and collection storage space began in May.

Coats said Farmington in the late 1950s was known as the "wide place in the road." Then the city boomed when it struck oil, she said.

Coats said she wishes more residents cared about the museum.

"It should be probably more important to more people," she said.

An exhibit devoted to oil and gas — the industry that build the city — makes sense, she said.

Farmington City Councilor Gayla McCulloch, one of wing's advocates, agreed. She said she's happy to see the community recognize the oil and gas industry.

"It's obviously important to me," she said. "It's our livelihood."

Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts, who cut the red ribbon on Wednesday, said museums celebrate history, and celebrating the oil and gas industry is reasonable. Oil and gas — and coal — will continue to be important as the city grows, he said.

Members of the community on Wednesday tour the new wing of the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park after a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Members of the community on Wednesday tour the new wing of the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park after a ribbon cutting ceremony. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

"We're not only celebrating our history," he said. "We're looking forward."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.