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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Colorado State Museum

Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

Have you lived in Colorado long enough to remember when the State Museum was located at 14th and Sherman, in what is now the Legislative Services Building?

The State Historical Society was established in 1879 and its earliest museum exhibits were located in the State Capitol. By the early 1900s, however, the Society wanted its own home. Architect Frank Edbrooke — who had completed the designs for the Capitol — was hired to design a new structure, which would be located across the street. Built of native Colorado materials including Yule marble and Cotopaxi granite, the three-story Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1915. The museum was best known for its impressive archaeological collections and early Native American artifacts. Later, in the 1930s, WPA activities resulted in a great deal of historical research as well as the creation of the dioramas that became one of the museum’s most memorable features. In fact, the amazingly detailed WPA diorama depicting 1860 Denver can still be viewed at today’s History Colorado Center.

You can learn about the old museum building in Colorado Capitol Buildings, a 1951 publication highlighting the State Capitol and its associated architecture. In addition, a 1972 museum brochure digitized by our library might bring back memories, with photos and descriptions of the exhibits.

The State Museum continued at 14th and Sherman until 1976, when it moved to a new home at 1300 Broadway. That second building was torn down in 2010 and the current building, at 12th and Broadway, opened in 2012. The old museum building became legislative offices, due to its proximity to the Capitol, and is a part of the Denver Civic Center National Historic Landmark District.

The Colorado State Museum under construction, circa 1915. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Navajo Textiles

One of the newer additions to our library collection is Navajo Textiles: The Crane Collection at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Published in 2017 by University Press of Colorado in conjunction with the museum, the book explores one of the world’s largest collections of Navajo textiles. “Bringing together the work of anthropologists and indigenous artists, the book explores the Navajo rug trade in the mid-nineteenth century and changes in the Navajo textile market while highlighting the museum’s important, though still relatively unknown, collection of Navajo textiles,” writes the publisher. Two of the book’s four co-authors are Navajo weavers. Check out Navajo Textiles directly from our library or through Prospector.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

The Dent Archaeological Site

Near Milliken, Colorado is the Dent Site, one of Colorado’s oldest and most significant archaeological sites.  It was discovered in 1932 by a railroad foreman, who spotted some very large bones sticking out of the mud near the railroad tracks.  Construction of the tracks, combined with heavy spring rains, had exposed a site that had been covered since the last ice age.

After the discovery of the site in 1932, Professor Conrad Bilgery of Regis University and curator Jesse Figgins of the Denver Museum of Natural History studied the bones and determined them to be the skeletons of ice age mammoths.  They uncovered five adult female mammoth skeletons along with eight young mammoths. But the most important information yielded at the site was not about mammoths, but about people. Found nearby the mammoths were two Clovis spear points.  These spears were used by people now known as belonging to the Clovis culture, which existing approximately 12,000 years ago. The mammoth bones also showed marks consistent with having been butchered, showing that mammoth was an important part of these early peoples’ diets.

Research at the site resumed in the 1970s through the early 2000s, when new techniques such as radiocarbon dating were used.  Since its discovery, the Dent Site has offered fascinating information on the diets and hunting techniques of some of North America’s earliest human inhabitants, as well as on long-extinct animal species.

The artifacts uncovered at the Dent Site are now part of the collections of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (formerly the Denver Natural History Museum).  They along with the University Press of Colorado published a book, Crossroads of Culture, about the museum’s anthropology collections. A copy of this book can be checked out from our library.  Here you will find more on the story of the Dent Site discovery along with photos of the site in 1932 and of the Clovis points that were discovered there.

Another resource available from our library is Frontiers in Paleoindian Archaeology:  From the Dent Site to the Rocky Mountains, also a publication of the University Press of Colorado. 

Finally, for many more resources on archaeology and paleontology in Colorado, search our library’s online catalog or see this list of archaeology publications from History Colorado.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Byers-Evans House Museum

Nestled between the looming structures of the Denver Art Museum is a hidden treasure, the Byers-Evans House Museum at 1310 Bannock Street.  Built in 1883 for Rocky Mountain News founder William Byers and owned for over 90 years by the Evans family, this lovely Italianate house is now a museum property owned by History Colorado.  Restored to the 1910s-1920s period, the house features original furnishings belonging to the Byers and Evans families, as well as exact-reproduction wallpapers and other elements that truly give you the feeling of stepping back in time.

The Byers-Evans House in the mid-1880s, when it was home to the Byers family.  Denver street names have changed since then, so the home’s original address was 1310 South 14th St.  Photo courtesy Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

A tour of the museum is a real treat, but of course a tour can never tell the full story.  If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Byers-Evans House, you can check out from our library The House in the Heart of the City: The Byers and Evans Families of Denver, a special issue of Colorado Heritage magazine from the museum’s opening in 1989.  Also, you can find biographies of Governor John Evans, the family patriarch, and his son William Gray Evans, the house’s owner, in LeRoy Hafen’s 1927 History of Colorado, all five volumes of which have been digitized by our library.  William Evans’ sister Anne contributed greatly to Denver’s art community, which you can read about in History Colorado’s publication The Denver Artists’ Guild.  Finally, short biographies of Anne Evans and of the home’s original owner, William Byers, are available from the Colorado Virtual Library.

A fun fact:  Before moving to 1310 Bannock, William Byers lived in a home on the site of what is now the Colorado State Library’s building at Colfax and Sherman.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Vote for Colorado's Most Significant Artifact

Now through November 17, you can vote for your favorite historic Colorado artifact or document as part of the Colorado Collections Connection’s campaign to highlight the importance of our state’s historic and cultural heritage.  Artifacts were nominated by their owning institution and include items from museums and libraries large and small.  The nominees come from all over the state, including from the Denver Public Library, Fort Morgan Museum, Hayden Heritage Center, Littleton Museum, Montrose Historical Society/Museum, Monte Vista Historical Society, and others.  Nominees range from large items such as a stagecoach, to archival materials like the Longmont Museum’s collection of teacher grade books from the early- and mid-twentieth century.  Other nominees include items belonging to famous Coloradans such as William Henry Jackson and Justina Ford.  Anyone can vote, so choose your favorite today!

The Colorado Collections Connection is a partnership between the Auraria Library, History Colorado, the Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums, and the Colorado State Library.  It continues the work initially started by a grant program known as Connecting to Collections.  The Most Significant Artifact program is now in its fifth year, and you can read about the first two years in the report Colorado’s Top Ten Most Significant Artifacts, 2013 and 2014, available for checkout from our library.  You can also find listings and photos of previous years’ nominees here.

Miss Yokohama, Colorado’s Japanese Friendship Doll from 1927, is among the nominees for the 2017 Colorado’s Most Significant Artifact.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Museums and Galleries at Colorado's Universities

Did you know that several Colorado universities have museums and art galleries open to the public?  Whether presenting student and faculty artworks, traveling shows, or natural history collections, Colorado’s university museums are worth visiting:

Adams State University, Alamosa:

 Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction:

Colorado School of Mines, Golden:

Colorado State University, Fort Collins:

Colorado State University-Pueblo, Pueblo:

Fort Lewis College, Durango:

Metropolitan State University of Denver, Denver:

University of Colorado, Boulder:

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs:

University of Colorado, Denver:

University of Northern Colorado, Greeley:

Western State Colorado University, Gunnison:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Artists

Our library collection contains a number of biographies on Colorado fine artists.  Titles of interest in our collection include:

  • “The Art of ‘Nettie’ Bromwell,” by Maria Matthews, Colorado Heritage, Spring 1997.
  • “C. Waldo Love:  Denver Artist,” by Stan Cuba, Colorado Heritage, Jan/Feb 2012.
  • “The Cowboy, the Indian, and the Buckaroo:  Alexander Phimster Proctor in Colorado,” by Peter H. Hassrick, Colorado Heritage, Summer 2003.
  • Denver Artists Guild:  Its Founding Members, by Stan Cuba.  History Colorado, 2015.
  • “Eve Drewelowe:  Boulder Artist,” by Stanley L. Cuba, Colorado Heritage, Summer 1990.
  • Herndon Davis:  Painting Colorado History, by Thomas J. Noel and Craig W. Leavitt, University of Colorado, 2016.
  • “Impressions of a Renaissance:  The Artists of Denver National Bank,” by Jack Henry Kunin, Colorado Heritage, Summer 2002.
  • Irene Jerome Hood:  A Victorian Woman and Her Art, by Georgianna Congiguglia, Colorado Historical Society, 1982.
  • Masterpieces of Colorado:  A Rich Legacy of Landscape Painting.  Colorado Council on the Arts, 2007.
  • “Paul Gregg:  The City Room Was His Studio,” by Georgianna Contiguglia, Colorado Heritage, Summer 1990.
  • “Seeing Allen True:  The Life and Art of an American Muralist,” by Alisa Zahller, Colorado Heritage, Sept/Oct 2009.
  • “Vance Kirkland:  Confronting Colorado in Art,” by Stanley Cuba, Colorado Heritage, Summer 2001.
  • “Western Visions:  Colorado’s New Deal Post Office Murals,” by Mary Motian-Meadows, Colorado Heritage, Autumn 1991.

Many of these artists’ works can be seen exhibited in local galleries, government buildings, universities, and museums such as History Colorado; the Denver Art Museum; the Kirkland Museum of Decorative and Fine Arts; and the American Museum of Western Art.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Vote for Colorado's Most Significant Artifacts

Now through November 30, you can vote for Colorado’s Most Significant Artifacts.  This is the second annual campaign by Colorado Collections Connection (formerly Colorado Connecting to Collections, and of which the Colorado State Library is a part) that seeks to bring awareness to the unique treasures held in Colorado’s libraries, museums, and archives.  The artifacts are nominated by their owning institutions; this year, artifacts and documents come from a wide range of institutions including Colorado State Archives, Denver Public Library, Steelworks Center of the West, Pueblo City-County Library, History Colorado, and small museums around the state including Montrose, Gold Hill, Littleton, Estes Park, and others.  The nominated items include those telling the story of Amache relocation camp; the 1955 United Airlines crash over Longmont; the Cheyenne tribe; Colorado’s participation in the Civil War; mining history; and more.  Anyone can participate — vote for your favorite item today!

For information on last year’s (2013/14) inaugural contest, read the final report available from our library, or check out the winners here.  For more about Colorado Collections Connection, visit their website.

                                           Colorado State Archives’ collection of mugshots of Colorado 
                                                  inmates dating back to 1871 is among the artifacts competing 
                                                                 in Colorado’s Most Significant Artifacts.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Denver Artist's Guild

One of History Colorado’s regional museums, the Byers-Evans House Museum, currently is holding an exhibit of artworks by Colorado artists who were members of the Denver Artist’s Guild.   Founded in 1928, the Guild included such well-known artists as Vance Kirkland and Allen True. 

Our library has recently acquired a gorgeous new book from History Colorado highlighting the exhibit and the history of the Guild.  The full-color-illustrated book includes not only the exhibition catalog, but also a history of the Guild; a discussion of the Guild’s 1948 split between traditionalists and modernists; and a walking tour of artworks on view in Denver and around the state. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

History Colorado Collections Online

History Colorado recently launched a database of selected items in its collection, including artifacts, photographs, and archival materials.  The database launched with images of 80,000 items and is continuing to grow.  This database is an excellent resource for researchers to find primary sources on Colorado’s history.  Of course this database represents only a small percentage of History Colorado’s vast collections; if you do not find what you are looking for in the database, you can contact photos@state.co.us regarding photographs or curator@state.co.us regarding objects.  To find out more about the history and stories of Colorado, check out History Colorado’s Colorado Heritage and its predecessor, Colorado Magazine, available from our library.  Also be sure to check our library’s online catalog for further resources.

This 1880s-era chair from one of the private boxes in the demolished Tabor Grand Opera House is an example of the artifacts that are available for viewing on History Colorado’s collections database. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado History Exhibits – Online

Did you know that you can visit the History Colorado Center’s exhibits without ever leaving your chair?  They have set up an Online Exhibits website where you can go to view exhibits on Colorado History which tie in with the actual exhibits in the museum.  The online exhibits are fun and interactive, and while geared primarily toward students they can be enjoyed by all ages.  Right now you can view exhibits on the Amache Japanese relocation camp; Bent’s Fort; and Tribal Paths, a history of Colorado’s Native Americans.  Keep checking back because more exhibits, including Mesa Verde, Lincoln Hills, and Keota, are coming soon. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

American Archives Month

October is American Archives Month, celebrating the rich array of historical treasures found in American archives.  In Colorado, most museums and many libraries have archives both large and small that store the record of American, Colorado, and local history.  The Colorado Historical Records Advisory Board “serves as a central advisory body within Colorado for historical records planning and coordination.”  To find out what they are doing to make sure Colorado’s history is available for the future, view their report Ensuring the Documentary Heritage of the Centennial State here.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado and the Dust Bowl

With recent flooding it is hard to believe that Colorado is prone to devastating drought, such as occurred during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  Colorado Heritage Magazine has a fascinating article in the current issue, which you can check out from our library.  “The Living West,” A new exhibit at the History Colorado Center opening November 23, will also explore the Dust Bowl and its impact on the lives of Colorado farmers in the “dirty Thirties.” 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Sand Creek Massacre

History Colorado has temporarily closed their exhibit on the Sand Creek Massacre due to complaints from descendants that the Indian tribes were not adequately consulted (see the news story here.)  The Sand Creek Massacre occurred on November 29, 1864, when soldiers of the Colorado Volunteers killed more than 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho, the majority of whom were women, children, and the elderly. 

Not all of the white soldiers participated in the massacre.  Capt. Silas Soule condemned the massacre and was subsequently murdered.  You can read his heartbreaking letters about the atrocities of the massacre in Western Voices:  125 Years of Colorado Writing, available from our library.  Other articles on the massacre can be found in the Historical Society’s Colorado Heritage and Colorado Magazine, also available from our library.

Find out more about the History Colorado Center museum at http://www.historycoloradocenter.org.  Also, you can read History Colorado’s statement on the exhibit closure here.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

The American Soldier

Be sure to visit the History Colorado Center to view their exhibit “The American Soldier” before it closes on September 2!  This poignant exhibit explores through photographs the lives and experiences of American soldiers from the Civil War to the present day.  Soldiers’ experiences have also been preserved through letters and diaries.  On the History Colorado website you can find the WWI letters of 1st Lt. Charles Stewart, which were discovered in a Denver attic.  Another interesting look at military life is the diary of Romine H. Ostrander, kept from 1863-1865 during his service in the 1st Colorado Infantry.  The diary has been published in book form by the Colorado Historical Society and is available from our library.  

 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

International Museum Day

This Saturday, May 18, is International Museum Day.  Established in 1977 by the International Council of Museums, the day is set aside to encourage the public to visit and support their local museums.  No matter what you’re interested in, there’s probably a museum somewhere that would interest you.  On Saturday, many museums around the world will have special events, free admissions, and other celebrations. 

Colorado is packed with great museums, not only the large instutitions here in Denver but also small and rural museums across the state.  So wherever your travels around Colorado take you, or if you’re just looking for something to do in your own neighborhood, there are several resources that can help you find a museum of interest to you.  The Colorado Wyoming Association of Museums has a Museum Guide on their website, with a database searchable by location and type.  There are 54 types of museums listed, from Aviation to Zoology, so there is surely something there for everyone!  Another helpful resource is the Colorado Tourism Office’s Museums webpage, a pictorial guide with tourism information on all kinds of museums across the state.  If you’re interested in Colorado history, visit History Colorado’s Museums page.  History Colorado offers not only the large state museum in Denver, but eight other regional museums in all parts of the state, from Leadville to Pueblo to Trinidad, and more.  Finally, check out the book Colorado Museums and Historic Sites from our library. 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

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 www.historycolorado.org.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

New History Colorado Center

Colorado’s new history museum has been open for about a month, to great reviews.  You can read about the brand-new History Colorado Center in a new commemorative publication of that title available from our library.  The new museum at 12th and Broadway is the fourth home for the Colorado Historical Society and its museum.  They were originally located in the basement of the State Capitol; in 1912 the Society moved into a brand-new museum building at 14th and Sherman, across from the Capitol, designed by the great architect Frank Edbrooke.  That building still stands today and is used as the Legislative Services Building, although you can still see the words “Colorado State Museum” on the facade.  In the 1970s, the Historical Society built a new building at 1300 Broadway known as the Colorado Heritage Center.  We have several historical publications in our library that highlight this “new” modern building (see our web catalog for titles).  In the early 2000s, the Colorado Judicial Branch, which shared the 1300 block of Broadway with the museum, decided it needed to expand to an entire block.  So, the 1970s building was demolished, along with the judicial building next door, and the brand-new Ralph Carr Judicial Complex, which will eventually house both the Colorado Judicial Branch and the Colorado Attorney General’s staff, is currently under construction and nearing completion.  Interestingly, what goes around, comes around – the new Judicial Complex with its neoclassical architecture more resembles the style of the 1912 history museum than it does the modern, angular style of the 1970s structures!

The new Colorado History Center, a block south of the old site, features some great exhibits on different aspects of Colorado history and life, including mining, life on the eastern plains, an exhibit on the Japanese relocation camps, and much more.  New exhibits will be added as well, including a Denver exhibit coming up later this year.  For interesting information from the History Center staff on the process of moving the collection and the building of the new structure, see the last several issues of Colorado Heritage, also available from our library.

Photo courtesy History Colorado

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Museums in Colorado

Tomorrow, May 18, is International Museum Day.  Many museums will have free admissions or other enticements, so check your favorite museum online to see what’s happening!

Whether you’re interested in history, art, or science, Colorado has some terrific museums.  Wherever you find yourself in our state, you can probably find a museum – from large institutions to tiny local spots.  Check out the book Colorado Museums and Historic Sites from our library to get a listing of museums and other sites of interest across Colorado.  Also, for a listing of museums in historical buildings, see Museum Buildings, Sites and Structures on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

HISTORY MUSEUMS
You can find many resources in our library dealing with Colorado’s museums.  History Colorado (formerly the Colorado Historical Society) just opened a brand-new museum in downtown Denver, but they also have a number of regional museums across Colorado.  In-depth information on these museums and their histories can be found in publications such as the “Capsule History and Guide” series of books, which cover the Ute Indian Museum, the Fort Vasquez Museum, the El Pueblo Museum, the Fort Garland Museum, the Trinidad History Museum, and the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park.  For hours and locations of these and the other regional museums, visit their webpage.  In our library collection you can also find historical publications on the Historical Society’s old museum buildings, and a historical publication on the regional museums entitled A Journey Through Time:  The Regional Museums of the Colorado Historical Society. 

ART MUSEUMS
A wonderful publication found in our library collection is Masterpieces of Colorado:  A Rich Legacy of Landscape Painting, a catalog from a traveling exhibition sponsored by the Colorado Council on the Arts.  Also in our collection are some historical publications from exhibits at the University of Colorado Museum, including Native American Ceramics of Eastern Colorado; A Thread Through Time:  The Textiles of China; Textiles of Eastern Persia and Central Asia; and Caucasian Textiles, 16th-20th Century.

SCIENCE MUSEUMS
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science recently collaborated with the Colorado Geological Survey to produce Notes on the Denver Basin Geologic Maps.  Also, we have in our library a series of scientific publications from the University of Colorado Museum; search our web catalog for titles.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Works Progress Administration (WPA)

During the Depression of the 1930s many federal programs were set up to help get Americans back to work.  One of these was the Works Progress Administration or WPA.  Although the Depression was a difficult part of our country’s history, we can thank the WPA for some very interesting projects that might not have come about otherwise.  For example, as a historian, some of the projects I run across frequently are the Historic American Building Survey, the newspaper name index at the Denver Public Library, and the incredibly detailed diorama of 1860s Denver in the Colorado History Museum — all begun as WPA projects.

In our library, we have a number of interesting publications both about the WPA and completed as WPA projects.  Titles in our collection include:

Agriculture

Education

  • Educational Assistance:  A Report Covering Work Undertaken in the Fields of Workers’ Education and Adult Education (1939)
  • The Effect of Blanket Tax Limitation Upon the Revenue of School Districts in Colorado (1936)

Economics

  • The Relief Situation in Colorado Rural Towns and Areas (1937)
  • Rural Youth and Relief in Colorado (1936)
  • Social Security and Rural Relief in Colorado (1936)

Natural Resources

Tourism

  • Tourist Travel Study (1938)

Transportation

  • The Highways of Colorado (1937)

Resources not available online can be viewed in our library.  Also, be sure and visit the Colorado State Archives’ Civilian Conservation Corps Collection.  The CCC was another Depression-era federal program which hired young men to work on natural resources projects.  Their motto was “Save the Soil, Save the Forests, Save the Young Men.”

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Tourist Mines

Colorado has a rich history of mining and mineral extraction; in fact, if not for the 1859 Pikes Peak Gold Rush and silver boom of the 1870s and 1880s, Colorado might not be what it is today. Some of these mines still operate to this day, but many of the boom years’ mines and mine shafts have been left abandoned, played out or no longer useful. While it is fun to see the rickety old shafts clinging to the sides of mountains, and tempting to explore the secrets within, visiting an old mine is both dangerous and illegal – you can be cited for trespassing…if you make it out alive, that is. Abandoned mines present multiple hazards from risks of cave-ins to poor air supply. Therefore, if you want to visit a mine, it is best to do so by visiting one of the state’s specially designated tourist mines. The Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology has put together a brochure listing sixteen mines that you can safely tour; many of them are close to the Denver metro area. For more information on tourist mines, visit the Division’s website.