On our blog, Forward, History Colorado staff and other writers chronicle the latest preservation success stories, share new perspectives on the past, and peer behind the scenes into the care and documentation of our collections.
Read on to learn about how rare collections of historic artifacts and photographs are stored, cared for, and put on view. Find out what Colorado communities are doing to preserve their past for future generations. And, read in-depth histories of Colorado people and events of the past that still matter to us today.
Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, into law in 1990. This federal law mandated that museums across the country examine their collections, make detailed lists of any human remains and artifacts of Native American origin in their possession, and provide these lists to federally recognized tribal authorities for potential repatriation. Thousands of sacred items and human remains were returned to their tribes of origin this way, after decades or even centuries of potentially exploitative treatment.
This was a turning point in the world of museum operations, and has served to reframe entire exhibits and their interpretation. A new emphasis has been placed on outreach and communication with Native American groups before their cultures are placed on exhibit.
The internet has been buzzing in recent weeks with anti-racist reading lists as Americans seek to contextualize, process, and learn from this historic moment. In a spirit of solidarity with the many great resources that have already been shared, History Colorado staff have some personal recommendations to offer.
As a preservationist working from home in a 1930s Art Deco apartment building, I have often lamented the fact that so much historic door hardware has been painted over, forever dulling the lovely details that add character and art to our everyday lives. I don’t consider myself an artistic person, so my interest in these seemingly basic details relates to my appreciation of what seems like unattainable creativity on my part.
On the evening of July 12, 1967, in Newark, New Jersey, two white police officers badly beat a black cab driver named John William Smith in the course of arresting him for a traffic violation. News of this spread like wildfire through the African American community, and angry crowds gathered outside the police station. Though Smith was injured, but not dead, riots erupted across the city that night. By the time order was restored on July 17, whole blocks lay smoldering and twenty-six people, mostly African Americans, lay dead.
Near the town of Westcliffe, Colorado, at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, lies the Historic Pines Ranch, a staple of the Wet Mountain Valley for over 130 years. Originally known as “The Pines,” the area was settled by English and Irish immigrants coming to the area for health reasons.