The Early Denver Diorama Returns

If you’ve visited the new History Colorado museum since its opening last April, you might have wondered what happened to the Early Denver Diorama.  Among the old museum’s most popular features, the large diorama with tiny details of 1860 Denver streets was always surrounded by viewers, and many have been asking where it is now.  Well, the answer is that it’s been in storage since the move, and has recently been going through meticulous conservation…and, in February, will return to public view in the new museum.  (See the Denver Post article on the diorama’s conservation).

WPA artists and historians in the 1930s created this incredibly detailed diorama.  It was built as an exact replica of Denver near Cherry Creek and the South Platte in its earliest days as a pioneer town, before the great Cherry Creek Flood of 1864 wiped out many of the buildings depicted in the model.  Because photography was still not very common in the early 1860s, especially on the frontier, the diorama represents the best visual representation of the city at that time.  But the story of the creation of the diorama is as interesting as the model itself.  In our library you can find two articles detailing the creation of this and the Historical Society’s other dioramas:  See “From Exhibits to Artifacts:  The Lasting Craft of the Society’s Dioramas” in the Spring 1983 issue of Colorado Heritage, and a description of the diorama at the time of its creation in the July 1936 issue of Colorado Magazine.  For more on the History Colorado Center, visit