Annual Report

Letter from our Executive Director

Dear History Colorado partner,

Governor Jared Polis is committed to moving Colorado boldly forward, ensuring that all residents of our state have the opportunity to flourish while preserving Colorado’s unique way of life. History Colorado, too, is dedicated to creating a better future for all of Colorado through our history-inspired work throughout the state—work that you have so generously supported.

The governor has framed four key issues to guide the work of the State:

  • Education: Fulfill every child’s potential regardless of zip code
  • Economy: Foster an economy that works for everyone
  • Environment and Renewables: Move to renewable resources and protect the environment
  • Health: Save Coloradans money on healthcare

Now that Governor Polis has marked his hundredth day in office, I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you and our other stakeholders the ways History Colorado’s work and plans for growth overlap with the governor’s priorities.

We educate Colorado.

Nearly 90,000 Colorado youth took part in History Colorado’s statewide education programs last year, including:

Our Hands-On History program is designed to meet the needs of working families by providing a safe, education-rich experience outside of normal school hours. The program, which started as an after-school initiative in Pueblo, has evolved to meet the needs of Colorado communities with a four-day school week. Hands-On History serves southern Colorado communities, and we’re scaling and replicating this successful program across the state.

Over the last two years, we’ve built a statewide network of education coordinators through our network of museums—an investment in education programs that meet students where they are, regardless of zip code.

We make education more accessible through our certification programs, including the Program for Avocational Archaeological Certification offered by the Colorado Archaeological Society and our Office of the State Archaeologist. We’re in the process of expanding our certification programs, especially around preservation, construction, and adobe technology.

We build vibrant Colorado communities.

History Colorado has a record of statewide success in communities. We have the largest preservation grants program in the country and have been recognized for our work in community revitalization through our museum network, which resides mostly in rural Colorado.

The State Historical Fund has awarded 4,525 historic preservation grants, in all 64 counties of Colorado, since the program’s inception in 1993. The total direct economic impact of those grants is more than $1.07 billion. For more than 25 years, the fund has been a significant catalyst for strengthening communities statewide.

Each year we honor Colorado families who are part of our agricultural heritage and economy through Colorado Centennial Farms & Ranches, recognizing more than 580 families who’ve owned and operated their farms or ranches for 100 years or more.

Our staff works on the ground in rural Colorado building capacity and partnerships, and we distribute over 72 percent of our State Historical Fund grants to rural Colorado communities. Preservation projects provide added economic opportunity by utilizing a mostly local workforce.  

We build a sustainable future by preserving Colorado’s unique way of life.

History Colorado recognizes that the greenest building is one that’s already built. Preserving and repurposing existing buildings, with the help of our State Historical Fund, creates a lower environmental impact than building a new one—even when you account for energy efficiency.

We also support projects that bridge historic buildings and renewable energy. Our Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center in the San Luis Valley uses geothermal energy to heat one of its adobe buildings—the oldest buildings owned by the State of Colorado. A long-term objective is to expand geothermal energy to the entire site. Our State Historical Fund has supported projects to upgrade historic sites for greater energy efficiency. In just one example, a grant to the San Juan Historical Society funded the installation of a micro-hydro turbine at the landmark Mayflower Mill in Silverton. The project added a new attraction to tours of the mill and has enhanced fire protection, and it serves as a regional model for micro-hydro electrical power.

We partner with Colorado communities to ensure that our shared history reflects Colorado’s rich diversity.

History Colorado’s ​Museum of Memory is a community-based public history initiative that fosters resilience through heritage and cultural reclamation, builds community, reduces isolation in aging communities, and has been recognized as a tool towards building health equity. We’re partnering with communities like Salt Creek, Dogpatch, and Avondale in Pueblo County and Globeville-Elyria-Swansea in Denver and will start soon in Antonito in Conejos County.

We’re engaged in contemporary history and collecting initiatives that enable Colorado’s history to represent all of Colorado’s diverse communities. This includes work at the Center for Colorado Women’s History at the Byers-Evans House Museum, the Borderlands initiative in southern Colorado, statewide oral history collection, and a proposed curator of LGBTQ Colorado history. Our Heritage Diversity Initiative is identifying sites associated with people and events in Colorado's African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, LGBTQ, women's, and urban Native American history.

We are a catalyst for progress.

History Colorado is engaged in strategic planning efforts led by University of Denver chancellor emeritus Dan Ritchie and a statewide advisory group to build on a period of steady growth and expansion of services to Colorado residents. As History Colorado moves boldly forward, we’re focused on statewide impact, education, sustainability, preserving Colorado’s unique identity, and building vibrant communities.

Read our annual report below to see more of what we’ve done over the past year all across Colorado.

Our goal is to reach out ever more effectively to individuals and communities in all of Colorado. We look forward to aligning our work with the bold initiatives Governor Polis has laid out, and—as always—it’s with your ongoing support that we can make it happen. Please donate today to help us preserve and share Colorado's rich history.

Here’s to creating a better future for Colorado—together—by inspiring wonder in our past.

Steve W. Turner, AIA

Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, History Colorado

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