Press Release

History Colorado’s Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center Named Finalist for 2023 IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Service

National Medal is nation’s highest honor recognizing museums and libraries for service to their communities

DENVER—March 28, 2023—The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced today that History Colorado’s Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center is among 15 museum finalists for the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that demonstrate significant impact in their communities.

Luke Perkins | 303.866.3670 | 

Savannah Young,, 202-248-5446

Located in the San Luis Valley, Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center is a community museum of History Colorado, and the only institution in Colorado to be selected as a finalist for this award in 2023. 

Originally built in 1858, 10 years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Fort Garland has traditionally allowed visitors to explore life in a nineteenth century military fort by walking the parade grounds and touring five of the original adobe buildings. Recently, Fort Garland has begun a reimagining funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities which gives History Colorado the opportunity to explore the complex and difficult histories of westward expansion and colonization.

“Fort Garland is a beautiful and immersive historic site that has made meaningful strides in just a few years to engage local communities and share histories that are representative of the people who called Colorado home long before it was part of the United States,” said Dawn DiPrince, executive director of History Colorado. “Fort Garland perfectly reflects the work-in-progress at History Colorado and demonstrates how vital authentic history is to people's lives, how museums can use resources to meet community needs, and the patient power of historic reconciliation and healing.”

The dedication of Fort Garland's staff has allowed the museum to better serve the surrounding community, and resulted in the creation of exhibitions and programs that have garnered considerable attention, met community needs, and better represented the rich and diverse history of the San Luis Valley.

Specific examples of Fort Garland’s work include: 

  • Unsilenced: Indigenous Enslavement in Southern Colorado by artist Chip Thomas, which explores an often ignored chapter of American History
  • Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute): "Merciless Indian Savages"–an Indigenous exploration of what American Democracy means in Indian Country
  • Leading efforts to incorporate the history of the San Luis Valley into local school district curricula
  • Expanded affordable child care through Hands-on History day camps hosted by History Colorado
  • The upcoming buffalo soldiers: reVision that unpacks themes of race, land, and the harm unleashed by westward expansion while providing an emotional testament to the difficult choices Buffalo Soldiers faced
  • And holding regular community conversations to create space for community members to be heard, valued, and most importantly, represented by the museum

“As we’ve engaged with community members and organizations, we’ve learned that individuals and families with historic ties to the San Luis Valley haven’t always felt welcome at the museum,” said Eric Carpio, chief community museum officer and director of Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center. “The community felt that Fort Garland has contributed to the erasure or misrepresentation of women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals and communities. Over the past several years, Fort Garland has begun addressing these issues by engaging and co-creating with a wide variety of community members to decenter militarized and settler colonial narratives and tell the countless stories of the San Luis Valley.”

Being named as a finalist for the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service places Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center amongst the most innovative cultural centers in the nation.

“So many museums and libraries across the country are committed to providing programs that are vital to the health and growth of engaged communities. We are very proud to announce the 30 finalists for this year’s IMLS National Medal,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “These institutions represent the best of what museums and libraries do for their communities.”

To celebrate this honor, History Colorado and IMLS are encouraging Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center community members to share stories, memories, pictures, and videos on social media using the hashtags, #HistoryColorado, #ShareYourStory and #IMLSmedals, and engage with IMLS on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For more information, please visit the IMLS website.

National Medal winners will be announced in late May. Representatives from winning institutions will be honored for their extraordinary contributions during an in-person National Medals Ceremony this summer.
To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit the IMLS website

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center
Fort Garland was built in 1858, 10 years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, during American expansion into the west. Today, visitors can explore life in a nineteenth century military fort by walking the parade grounds and touring five of the original adobe buildings. The Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center is a community museum of History Colorado.

The Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center is located at 29477 Hwy. 159, Fort Garland, Colorado, and is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit or call 719-379-3512 for more information.

About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 143-year-old institution that operates eleven museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation which provides technical assistance, educational opportunities, and other access to archaeology and historic preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is one of the nation’s largest state funded preservation programs of its kind. More than 70% of SHF grants are allocated in rural areas of the state. Additionally, the offices of the State Archaeologist and the State Historic Preservation Officer are part of History Colorado. 

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 10 other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information. #HistoryColorado