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.
Summer in Colorado is special. We get plenty of sunny days for adventures outdoors and just as many cool nights to relax and stargaze. There are also several incredible historic places in or near our state for viewing starry night skies! From urban observatories to ancient archaeological sites, these places boast campfire stories that are as interesting as those inspired by the constellations.
Over the past two centuries Colorado’s scenic and atmospheric qualities dominated by the Rocky Mountains have inspired many visiting and resident artists, both male and female, working in a variety of styles and media. While known during their lifetimes through exhibitions and attendant press coverage, their careers subsequently have not received much attention or documentation so that some of them have all but disappeared from public memory. The exhibitions of Bernard Arnest (1917–1986) this year in Colorado Springs at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College once again put the spotlight on Arnest—who worked for forty-plus years in Colorado and outside the state—and provide an occasion to survey his notable career.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a postcard is even better. Sending postcards in one form or another has been a novel way to both show a picture and convey a message since the mid-nineteenth century. Postcards’ one-cent postage and collectible nature caused their popularity to boom throughout Colorado and the United States in the early 1900s, cementing their place in history as a fun, visual form of communication. Colorado’s mountain vistas, vacation spots, and growing communities across the state provided endless subject matter for small, three-by-five-inch snapshots with a quick note or greeting. Today, postcards from the past reveal Colorado’s visual history through photography as well as the ways Coloradans and visitors portrayed the state to the rest of the world.
Ever wonder how women a century ago tolerated the restrictions placed on them pre- equal rights and women’s lib? Clue: a number of them didn’t. While strictures then may have been weightier than today, women of independent mind, strong will, and dedicated principles simply ignored the limits society tried to impose and did what they had to do.
The 2019 winner of the Barbara Sudler Award is Dr. Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, Emerita Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, for her book Sweet Freedom’s Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails, 1841–1869. The book is volume 12 of the University of Oklahoma Press’ (UOP) “Race and Culture in the American West Series.” Moore’s book is available for purchase in the museum gift shop at the Center for Colorado Women’s History at the Byers-Evans House or can be ordered online via the University of Oklahoma Presswebsite.
History Colorado recently acquired the historical archive of the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association (CDGRA) dating from 1933 through 2018. Formed in 1933, the association is a membership organization serving as a vital marketing resource, and, more importantly, as a system of self-regulation ensuring that Colorado dude and guest ranches are held to high standards.
History Colorado has been collecting, preserving, and interpreting our state’s history for 140 years. Our first collections were stored in a rented room at the Glenarm Hotel—the building that served as the state capitol in 1879. Obviously, we’ve outgrown the Glenarm and three other locations since that time. We now manage more than 15 million photographs, documents, and artifacts. Considering the number of moves we’ve made, the number of sites and storage facilities statewide that we maintain, and the evolution of the documentation and tracking process—from cursive ledger book entries to typewritten catalog cards to computer database records—it is not surprising that an occasional artifact (or a box of them) has been separated from its provenance.
Colorado has a rich and varied heritage. For centuries it was a place on the frontier, a living borderlands where many different cultures, countries, and nationalities intersected and interacted, often working together to live prosperously. Settlers from a wide variety of regions traveled here and shared the common experience of living on the frontier of their homelands. Because of this, there are many traditional skills, habits, and knowledge that all Coloradans have in common as a shared history.
Food is among the best of summer’s delights. As you consider the adventures you plan to have in Colorado this coming season, don’t forget the many ways food can connect you with our state’s unique heritage.
Even with its dry climate and short summer season, Colorado has a surprising legacy of culinary prowess. From the turkeys domesticated by ancient Puebloans to the wineries that have boosted tourism on the Western Slope, Colorado is full of delicious stories and destinations to savor!