Press Release

Dialogue amid Debate: History Colorado Offers Nourishing, Nonpartisan Answer to Fractured and Disrupted Election Year

h-co.org/democracy | #HistoryColorado

Denver, Colo. (August 18, 2020) — History Colorado catapults Coloradans into the home stretch of this fall’s historic election and beyond with This Is What Democracy Looks Like, Denver’s most inclusive, informative, and empowering public engagement initiative about the past, present, and future of government for all.

PRESS CONTACT:
John Eding, Manager of Communications and PR
303-866-3670 | john.eding@state.co.us

All are welcome in their living rooms, around town, and on all four floors of the History Colorado Center through the gateway at h-co.org/democracy and in the vibrant digital pages of The Colorado Magazine.  

Speaker Series
As the primary public forum for This Is What Democracy Looks Like, History Colorado’s 2020–2021 speaker series aims to be as multi-dimensional, provocative, and participatory as democracy itself. Ten guest presenters shape discussion and offer new ways of seeing and understanding America today. Scholar Benjamin Waddell of Durango’s Fort Lewis College kicks off the series on Thursday, August 20 by tackling one of the most controversial ideas conceived by our nation’s founders, the Electoral College. A partnership with Denver Film then brings prolific activist, author, and filmmaker Astra Taylor—writer and director of the 2018 documentary What Is Democracy, and author of Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone (Metropolitan Books, 2019)—on Tuesday, September 15. The forum, which begins in an online-only format and may extend to complementary in-person experiences, continues into the summer of 2021. Tickets ($5–15) and complete details are available at h-co.org/lectures.      

Mystery Quest
A self-guided, socially distanced, episodic mystery quest, The Lost Book of Astrid Lee supports local artists and community partners through a series of creative interventions upon historic sites—and reveals to participants teachable moments hidden in Denver’s plain sight. It is organized by Public Programs & Events Manager Chris Getzan and creative influencer Andrew Novick. Individuals navigating disruptions to work or education due to the Covid-19 pandemic may find it especially compelling. The project features new, original work from Lonnie Allen, Don Austin, Roxann Blue, Emily Hope Dobkin, Chandler Dolan, Cassandra Elaine, Thea Hunt, and Picture Me Here. It also presents creative contributions by the African Community Center, Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Food Bridge Denver, Kerrie Joy, Mary Grace Legg, Mile Hive Bee Club, David Moke & Denver Digirati, Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling, Molina Speaks, “and a few surprisingly relevant historical special guest stars,” according to Getzan. "Think The Goonies meets Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego with a dash of Twin Peaks, marinated in Thomas Frank, all right here in Denver," he adds. Participation is free and begins with registration at historycolorado.org/astridlee. The quest runs August 28–September 30, with weekly clues leading to the next pursuit. Participants can start with the first week for the complete experience, or join in along the way.

Exhibits
At the History Colorado Center, American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith (September 12, 2020–January 3, 2021) is presented in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. Awe-inspiring national treasures dazzle guests while interactive elements spark conversation about civil rights, political debate, and compromise from the nation’s formation to today. Amid Smithsonian objects like a reproduction of Thomas Jefferson’s portable writing desk, discover local artifacts like the pre-statehood handwritten laws of Buckskin Joe’s mining camp. See the order president Ulysses S. Grant signed to finally make Colorado a US state in 1876, completing a process that began more than 15 years earlier. Colorado’s next 15-year process—the voting-rights quest that culminated with Colorado voters becoming the nation’s first to ban gender discrimination in voting laws, in 1893—is chronicled in Bold Women. Change History. at Denver’s Center for Colorado Women’s History through February 2021. The exhibition highlights topics that are especially resonant during this presidential election year, like grassroots organizing, the influence of news outlets, and racism in political advocacy.

American Democracy also features The New Four Freedoms by Colorado artists David Ocelotl García, Rochelle Johnson, Cori Redford, and Carmen Richards. Commissioned in recent months for History Colorado’s permanent collection, these works of art are personal interpretations of four American values—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the brink of World War II. As a study in contrast that powerfully speaks for itself, their works will be displayed alongside archival reproductions of Norman Rockwell’s patriotic interpretations that were widely embraced in the U.S. during and following the war. Rockwell’s originals are on view at the Denver Art Museum through September 7, 2020.

The New Four Freedoms is one aspect of The Art of Democracy, a collection of exhibits and artworks—filling the History Colorado Center from top to bottom—that interpret historical moments and topics where words, facts, and intellectualizing cannot reach. Additional elements are Hecho en Colorado (through January 10, 2021), Adri Norris: Women Behaving Badly (through February 2021), Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute): “Merciless Indian Savages” (through July 2021), plus Rian Kerrane’s We the People participatory sculpture, Gina Klawitter’s sculpture All the Way to Freedom, and a community mural project completed by Ki’erre Dawkins, Aisha Renee, Leticia Tanguma, and their collaborators (September 12, 2020–January 3, 2021).

Liberated: America Fights for Democracy in World War II opens at the History Colorado Center on Veterans Day, November 11, 2020. Rediscover one of America’s most courageous fights for democracy in a powerful exhibit featuring such treasures as Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor Michio Taniwaki’s journal, Helen Rowland Proctor’s toolbox from her time assembling bombers for Boeing, and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s fencing foil, captured by Colorado’s own 10th Mountain Division. The exhibit will be  displayed in the Holland & Hart Gallery on the second floor.

SPONSORS AND CREDITS
American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith was developed by the National Museum of American History and adapted for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The Denver presentation of American Democracy is sponsored by Rhondda & Peter Grant, the Abarca Family Foundation, and Mary & George Sissel. This Is What Democracy Looks Like is sponsored by donors to the Executive Director’s Innovation Fund.

About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit that serves more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 141-year-old institution that operates Colorado’s oldest museum, nine additional museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the State Historical Fund (SHF), which is the nation’s largest preservation program of its kind. The SHF currently administers more than 280 grants worth approximately $24 million in active distributions across the state. More than 70% of its grants are currently allocated in rural areas of Colorado.

History Colorado’s outlets are publishing Black voices and confronting entrenched racism in historic preservation. Within the last year History Colorado has added curators of Latino Heritage and LGBTQ+ History to its staff, and added a full-time position to its Museum of Memory team, which works proactively to incorporate underserved communities and voices into its contemporary collecting initiative and other efforts. Its recent statement and historical essay on civil unrest have been widely shared by major news outlets.

History Colorado’s eight museums around the state were among the first cultural institutions in Colorado to reopen to visitors under new safety protocols. The swift return to in-person service in June followed an agile reorganization in response to COVID-19 that catalyzed new avenues for youth education, full-length episodes of its podcasts, a weekly digest with over 28,000 subscribers, and one of the nation’s most comprehensive collecting initiatives: a partnership with dozens of schools, communities, and more than 40 newsrooms called History in the Making. The State Historical Fund successfully distributed more than $1 million in grant dollars to community projects across the state this spring and continues its grant funding on schedule.

History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and nine other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit HistoryColorado.org, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information.