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.
We're now accepting guest contributions to our blog! We are especially seeking stories of underrepresented people and places across our state. Email hello at historycolorado.org to learn more.
Note: Photographs in blog articles are from the History Colorado collection unless credited otherwise. To inquire about digital copies or permissions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in and completeness of articles written by guest contributors do not necessarily represent History Colorado.
In 1935, 28-year-old Loren Eisely was a member of the excavation crew at an archaeological dig in a remote area on the high Colorado prairie. He was a poet and a philosopher, but had a keen interest in anthropology. At the time, scientists believed and rigorously defended the theory that ancient humans arose in Asia and Africa, and had been in the new world for only a few thousand years.
Nearly 30 years ago, when I began my museum career at the Field Museum of Natural History, we were grappling with the idea of what we called “multiculturalism,” and with the challenge of attracting audiences that reflected the diverse community in which we lived. It was a challenge that would require a profound organizational shift, and no one was more enthusiastic about this new commitment than I was.
It was the summer of 1971, and I had just turned seven years old. My dad was an electrical engineer who specialized in industrial construction projects, and we would follow him to live wherever the jobs took us. For this project we had moved from Ohio to Georgetown, South Carolina. We actually lived at nearby Litchfield beach in a beach house – definitely fun, but pretty cold in the winter. Now my parents raised their children (two boys and one girl) to be color blind with regard to race, and for this I am eternally grateful to them. I don’t recall them ever saying a negative word about a person or group of people based on the color of their skin – or for any other reason. So imagine their challenges moving to the South in the middle of the Civil Rights movement.
These days, it’s not uncommon to turn a historic church into a coffeehouse, or an old gas station into a hip new restaurant; adaptive reuse is one of the most creative and increasingly popular ways to preserve a historic building. What’s become rarer, in fact, is opting for the original use of a building post-rehabilitation, and this is no truer than for schools. As communities have grown through the twentieth century, early- and even mid-century schools have been abandoned for larger, newer school complexes.
Here’s a tip: photos hate basements and attics. Photographs are finicky objects and sensitive to myriad contaminants, but most especially light, pests and fluctuating temperatures and relative humidity. These four elements alone can rapidly deteriorate your photographs if not controlled. Fortunately, there are some simple, cost-effective ways to protect your family photos.
It’s with an eye to that very question that we’re hosting the traveling exhibit RACE: Are We So Different? at the History Colorado Center from September 20 through January 4. RACE, developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, takes a thought-provoking look at race—and racism—in the United States through interactives, historic artifacts, compelling photographs and a wealth of media; and we at History Colorado are putting our state in the picture.
Watchman Badge No. 1 is a hand-engraved shield cut and shaped from a sheet of German silver. Sometimes called nickel silver, German silver is an alloy (or combination) of copper, nickel, and zinc. The badge has a blanket–style safety pin soldered to its back. Unfortunately, it has no markings to tell us who made it, not to mention where, or when it was manufactured. But we do know it belonged to one of Denver’s first policemen, Eleazar L. Gardner.