Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: Historical Publications from the State of Colorado


You may not realize that one of the State Library’s own divisions is a treasure trove of historical information on Colorado. The State Publications Library was founded in 1980 to ensure the accessibility of all state government publications in perpetuity. The library’s collection includes publications from every state agency, dating from Territorial days to the present. In recent years the library has been engaged in digitizing many of its historical print documents, so that a wide variety of resources on Colorado history are now accessible to anyone. These documents can be explored in the library’s digital repository and many are now also available in the Digital Public Library of America.

What are some of the things you can find in the State Publications Library’s digital collection? Our collection contains state-issued reports on a variety of topics such as agriculture, education, elections, health, natural resources, taxes, etc. We have publications from the Legislature and from the state Supreme Court. And so much more.

One of our most frequently-accessed publications is the Biennial Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the state’s old name for the Department of Education. This serial, dating from 1870 to 1964, provides updates and information on the state’s public schools and districts. Anyone researching Colorado schools should be sure to view these reports. We also have Course of Study books that outline the curricula used in Colorado schools in the early 1900s.

The library also has digitized a number of past governors’ speeches. One of the most interesting is from 1905. During the previous November election, the two candidates for governor, Alva Adams and James Peabody, were both accused of obtaining fraudulent votes, so the governorship went to Lt. Governor Jesse McDonald in what became known as Colorado’s “three governors in a day” scandal. The speeches of Peabody and Adams provide fascinating first-person accounts of the controversy.

In Colorado’s early days, mining was a major part of the Colorado economy. We have hundreds of mining and geology reports from the early 1900s available online, including reports of the state coal mine inspector, which detail some of the hazardous working conditions the miners experienced. A report of the special investigation into the Ludlow Massacre in 1914 is also available.

Another popular topic is Colorado’s amazing wildlife. Included in the library’s digital collection is everything from birdwatching guides to publications that teach kids about wildlife. Arthur Carhart’s Report of Sage Grouse Survey from 1941 is one of our early wildlife publications.

The library also has thousands of research publications from state colleges and universities, especially Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder, available online. We also have digitized publications from the State Historical Society, such as this 1972 brochure about the old state museum, as well as one of our most popular items, Baker and Hafen’s 1927 five-volume History of Colorado.

The documents listed here are but a very small sample of the thousands of digital publications available from the State Publications Library. While the library has been digitizing historical publications, those documents that are “born digital” today are also being added to our repository, ensuring that the current information that is tomorrow’s “history” will be available online for generations to come.

Old highway maps, like this one from 1942, are available online from the State Publications Library.
Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: Greetings from Southwest Colorado!

Courtesy Fort Lewis College

Today quick messages and family updates are sent by text message, Facebook, Instagram or other social media posts.  But before social media and cell phones, postcards were the most popular way for friends and family to quickly and easily communicate with each other.  Even though postcards are not as widely used as they were during the “Golden Age of Postcards”, between 1907 and 1915, collecting them or deltiology, is still a popular hobby.

Greetings from Durango, Colorado. Courtesy Fort Lewis College

One avid collector, as well as philanthropist and overall promoter of southwest Colorado history, Nina Heald Webber, donated her postcard collection to the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango starting in 2002.  The Webber collection is vast containing about 4,500 postcards separated into six volumes and organized by place and subject: Early Durango, Later Durango and Local Narrow Gauge Railroads, Mesa Verde – Aztec Ruins, Silverton & Animas Canyon, Telluride – Ouray – Ophir, and Other Southwest Colorado Areas. The collection offers a tourist perspective of the Southwest region as well as documents how the region’s industries, towns and natural landscapes have changed over time.

The Webber collection includes postcards from the 1890’s to the 1950’s allowing researchers to also learn about the history and evolution of postcard production.  Postcard highlights from the collection include the White Border Period from 1915 to 1930,  the Photochrom Period from 1945 to present and numerous real photo postcards. A personal favorite, leather postcards, produced between roughly 1903 and 1910, are also found in the collection. Leather postcards were banned by the U.S. post office in 1907 because they jammed postage-canceling machines.

Leather Postcard. Greetings from Ouray, Colorado. Courtesy Fort Lewis College.
Real photo postcard. The Galloping Goose – Unique Train on the Rio Grande Southern in Southwestern CO. Courtesy Fort Lewis College.

The collection is available to view in person at the archive of the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College. The Center and Webber have dedicated time and resources to digitizing the collection and making it available online. The collection can be easily browsed through the Fort Lewis digital archive collection.  Fort Lewis recently shared a portion of their digital collection with the Plains to Peaks Collective, making these items discoverable through the Digital Public Library of America, a national platform for digitized historic collections. Thank you to Webber and to the Center for sharing this important Colorado history!

If you would like to share your unique historic digital collections with the DPLA, please contact Leigh Jeremias at or 720-483-4261.  We are currently gathering information about all institutions that would like to participate in the future so please reach out.  Information about the PPC can be found at:

Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: Pine River Library and the Stories of Bayfield, CO

A small town with a long history is a community with stories to tell; stories of hard times and harsh winters, but also of optimism and opportunity. Families who have lived for generations in Bayfield, Colorado are the keepers of their community’s stories and tell the tales of homesteaders, ranchers, farmers, and the railroad, to say nothing of family histories. Fortunately, the Pine River Library, along with its partner the Pine River Valley Heritage Society, is preserving and sharing these stories online through their newly launched Pine River Library Digital Collection site. It features three unique historical collections: Bayfield High School Yearbooks, Pine River Valley Heritage Society Oral History Collection, and The Missionary Ridge Fire 2002.

The Collections

Lavenia McCoy (pictured here in 1953) was a teacher and librarian at Bayfield High School. Her 2004 interview is part of the Oral History Collection.

The Oral History Collection was a series of interviews recorded in the early 2000s by the Pine River Valley Heritage Society and loaned to the Pine River Library as part of the Heritage Hub Project. Interviewer and longtime Bayfield resident James “Jim” Frahm sat down with other residents to capture their recollections of the town and their families. Retired school teacher and librarian Lavenia McCoy recalled the electrification of Bayfield, the first television, and the founding of the public library. Other interviewees discussed hunting, ranching, homesteading, and their relationships with other local families, neighboring towns, and Native Americans.

Elizabeth vonTauffkirchen, Digital Services Manager at Pine River Library, commented on her experience working on the Oral History Collection:

Working with the Pine River Heritage Society and the Bayfield Senior Center has been a surprise and a delight! I have received nothing but excitement and support by each new person I encounter at both organizations. Constructive partnerships have a particular energy that invigorates projects and drives them forward. The multiple, active, engaged partners in this project have contributed to make a product I am proud to share with our public!

Bayfield High School support staff, The Wolverine, 1953.

It’s not surprising, given the close-knit nature of the Bayfield community, that many of the family names mentioned in the oral histories also show up in The Wolverine, Bayfield High School’s yearbook. Pine River Library worked with Oklahoma Correctional Industries (OCI) to digitize 28 yearbooks spanning 1950-1986. Elizabeth noted that “OCI has done a wonderful job digitizing our local high school yearbooks as part of a grant-funded program to assist prisoners with viable job skills while preserving yearbooks for schools, libraries, and museums.”

Bayfield’s class sizes were small in the 1950s—some graduating classes were no more than 12—but even so the yearbooks depict a typical American high school experience of sports, clubs, proms, class clowns, and senior “wills” (“I, Gordon Powell, will my haircut to Donald Sower,” 1955). Longtime Bayfield residents will almost certainly spot some familiar names and faces on these pages.


The third collection, The Missionary Ridge Fire 2002, focuses on an important moment in La Plata County history, when a wildfire destroyed 72,962 acres and 46 houses over 39 days during the summer of 2002. The collection contains video footage of the fire as well as a video produced after the fire by San Juan Public Lands Center (San Juan National Forest & Bureau of Land Management), La Plata County Office of Emergency Preparedness, Fort Lewis College Office of Community Services, and Durango Community Access Television.

The Project

Pine River Library partnered with the Colorado State Library to create the Pine River Library Digital Collection, which is built on the open-source tool Omeka. Omeka’s capabilities will allow Pine River Library to eventually contribute information about its digitized artifacts via the Plains to Peaks Collective to the Digital Public Library of America, a national platform for discovering historical collections. Soon educators, students, researchers, and history enthusiasts will be able to learn about the history of Bayfield and La Plata County as told by its residents in their own voices.

Elizabeth reflected further on the Pine River Library Digital Collection:

This project has been (and continues to be) challenging and rewarding. Digitizing the stories of our town’s residents is such an important step in preserving our local heritage.

The opportunity to partner with the Colorado State Library on this site has been a fun adventure; I started this project as a complete novice in regard to archiving and metadata. I have learned volumes and yet have much more to learn in this area. This project is the perfect vehicle for that growth. I like to think we’re blazing the trail and other libraries will add similar sites in our wake.

For more information about the Pine River Library and Colorado State Library partnership, or to learn more about sharing your organization’s historical collections using Omeka, please contact:

Amy Hitchner
Collaborative Programming Coordinator
Colorado State Library

Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: Cattlemen’s Days

Program, Cattlemen’s Days, Courtesy Gunnison County Libraries.

Today Cattlemen’s Days, held in Gunnison, Colorado, is a celebration of Gunnison County’s rich ranching heritage.  Cattlemen’s Days is said to be Colorado’s oldest rodeo and the longest continuous running rodeo in the United States.  In the early 1880s, horsemen in the Gunnison area began to compete in riding and roping events.  These were usually informal leisure time events that evolved over time into a rodeo.

In 1894, cattle ranchers formed the Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association to protect the interests of  the cattle growers.  In 1901 the association formalized the Gunnison Rodeo and held the first Cattlemen’s Days on Main Street.  Between 1913 and 1928, the rodeo and race events moved to the Colorado Normal School, now Western State Colorado University. The event moved back downtown from 1929 to 1936. When the Cattlemen’s Days Association was created, it built new facilities, with support from the community, and held the first Cattlemen’s Days at the current site in 1937.

Photograph, 1982 Cattlemen’s Days Queen Keri George, Courtesy Gunnison County Libraries.

The Gunnison County Library collects and documents Cattlemen’s Days history and in 2016 began to digitize this important community history.  They began the project by digitizing the most contemporary items first and are working their way back to the earliest historical items.    Articles, programs, brochures and photographs from the 1980s to 2016 are now searchable and available online.  The library’s goal is to continue to document this unique local history and make more available online. This year’s Cattlemen’s Days is in full swing and will run until July 16th.  Don’t miss this historical family friendly event!

Touring Colorado’s Collections explores Colorado’s digital collections that tell the state’s unique and diverse history.   If you know of a digital collection that I should highlight please email me at  I would love to hear from you!


Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: Students Capture Routt County History

Recently the Bud Werner Memorial Library and the Tread of Pioneers Museum, both located in Steamboat Springs, partnered together to make an important local history collection, Three Wire Winter, available online to anyone anywhere.  Three Wire Winter was a magazine that captured and published oral histories of Routt County citizens.

Three Wire Winter, Fall 1976. Courtesy Tread of Pioneers Museum.

The publication was the team effort of Steamboat Springs High School teachers Bill McKelvie and Tanna Eck Brock.  Three Wire Winter was modeled after the Foxfire Magazine, a publication highlighting Appalachian heritage and produced by high school students.  The teachers wanted to engage their students in a similar way and in 1974 created a class that aimed to have students learn about community history by going outside of the classroom to seek and document stories. The first issue was published during the winter of 1975-76 and it continued publishing for 12 years with a total of 24 issues.    

At the end of the project McKelvie donated the Three Wire Winter records to the Tread of Pioneers Museum.  Since then the museum has preserved the documents, digitized the oral history recordings and partnered with the Bud Werner Memorial Library to make the collection searchable through the library’s catalog. The online collection includes the digitized oral history interviews, articles and magazines. The collection includes 69 oral history interviews including an interview with Billy Kidd, a former World Cup alpine ski racer and a member of the U.S. Ski Team and Rudi Schnackenberg who served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.

Three Wire Winter Collection. Courtesy Tread of Pioneers Museum

This collection is an important historical resource and provides a wealth of information on a variety of subjects including mining life, homesteading, ranching, and education in Colorado and more specifically Steamboat Springs and its surrounding areas.  The museum and the library are working together to preserve and help their patrons discover the people, places and events that have shaped Routt County’s history.

Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: A Partnership in Eagle County

Leadville stage at Red Cliff. Courtesy Eagle County Historical Society.

Providing online access to a community’s history can be a difficult process.  Local history can be represented by artifacts, documents and photographs that can be scattered across different institution types. However, collaborations across institutions can make the process of bringing community history together easier.  

The Eagle Valley Library District and the Eagle County Historical Society is a wonderful example of this type of partnership.  The two institutions work together to collect and preserve thousands of documents, photographs and artifacts that tell the history of Eagle County and areas on the Western Slope.  The historical society works with the community to collect and the library works to document the collection and make it accessible.   

Eagle County High School. Courtesy, Eagle County Historical Society

Currently over 4,600 images held by the two institutions are available in the Eagle Valley Library District’s online digital archive.  The library supports the museum’s collection database and many of their preservation needs.   In turn the historical society supports the community’s local authors through publishing, operates a museum, offers community events and is responsible for many of the interpretive signs in the valley.

Moving forward, both institutions would like to make more items available through their shared digital archive thereby increasing access to their collections and the rich history of the Eagle Valley and County.  So please check back often and see their wonderful progress.  

Touring Colorado's Collections

Heroes Remember

In honor of Veterans Day, Touring Colorado’s Collections is highlighting Mesa County libraries collection, The Veterans Remember Project, that recently went online.  The Veterans Remember Project is part of the Mesa County Libraries 970West Digital Collection that “visually captures the unique aspects of life in western Colorado.”  The collection includes photographs, videos and artwork.  The library also offers the public access to the 970West Studio, a multimedia production studio and artists in residence space.  The public can reserve the studio space for their own use and they can also take courses on studio related topics.  More information about the studio can be found here.

Courtesy Mesa County Libraries

The collection, The Veterans Remember Project, is an ongoing collecting initiative. This online video oral history collection, produced by the Mesa County Libraries, documents the stories of U.S military veterans who live in Mesa County.  Currently the project includes WWII veteran’s memories and experiences from seven project participates but this will grow as content is added. Each video oral history includes a transcript and biographical information about the participants.  The participants recount their memories and experiences during WWII, including their training, duties, and involvement in significant battles such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Bulge.  

WASP Wings. By Unknown – (U.S. Air Force website), Public Domain,

Of particular note is Annabelle Moss’ interview.  Moss was a member of  W.A.S.P., the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who employed women to fly military aircraft under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.  Each female pilot of WASP freed a male pilot for combat service and duties.  In her interview Moss recounts, “I learned from the WASPs or being a WASP that I could do anything I wanted to, all I had to do was want to do it and I could do it. It was a very difficult program to go through and I stayed with it the whole time and I learned that I could do anything. So I just know that if you want something bad enough you can do it.”

Thank you to all the brave women and men that have and continue to serve our country.

Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: Local History Told Through a Quilt

Vail Vintage Quilt, Vail Public Library

Typically historical collections made available online for research often come in the form of letters and photographs.  But history can be told through many different types of collection items, including three dimensional artifacts.  The Vail Public Library’s Vintage Vail Quilt is a perfect example of this.  

The Vail Public Library recently put the Vintage Vail Quilt online through its local digital archive. The original Vintage Vail Quilt hangs in the Vail Public Library Community Room and was donated to the Town of Vail in 1982. The 21 donors, who were also the creators of the quilt , created it to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Vail.   Vail Ski Resort was founded in 1962 and four years later the town of Vail was incorporated.

Vintage Vail Quilt Square, Clocktower Building, 1963. Vail Public Library

The quilt includes 19 squares that depict scenes from the town of Vail.  The centerpiece of the quilt depicts Vail Village.  Other squares include the Clocktower building, Pulis cabin, and Hanson Ranch.  Each square of the quilt is individually cataloged online and includes a photograph that can be downloaded.  Stitched on each square is the title, date and signature of the squares creator.  The quilt first included 21 squares but had to be modified to 19 squares when it was hung in the library in 1986.  

Also included in the digital collection are brief descriptions of the quilters, oral histories, newspaper articles describing the creation of the quilt, a few personal photographs of the creators and the book, Vintage Vail Quilt which has been digitized in its entirety.   Thank you to the Vail Public Library for making this unique collection available online.

Touring Colorado's Collections

Touring Colorado’s Collections: Remembering Salida

Colorado has a long and rich history. That history is often told through the unique collections held at libraries, archives and museums found throughout the state.  While the state is vast, fortunately many of these special collections can be found online.  In this new blog post series we’ll be highlighting some unique Colorado collections that you can explore while at home.  For the inaugural Touring Colorado’s Collections post, I’m highlighting the Salida Oral History Project, which was recently made available through the Salida Regional Library’s online digital archive.  

salidaThe Salida Oral History project began around 2003 as a combined effort of the Salida Regional Library and Historic Salida Inc. to document the history of Salida.  At that time a small army of volunteers began to interview long time residents capturing their memories and stories.  This collective history includes stories of local legends, recollections of everyday life in a rural mountain town, and important aspects of Salida’s agricultural history, such as the lettuce growing industry.

Twenty-six oral histories can be found and listened to here at the digital archive.  “The interviews will be kept forever so that others can learn from these true historians’ words.”  These oral histories are a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to learn more about Salida’s unique past.