Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

Introducing the History Colorado Center

The new History Colorado Center, designed by Tryba Architects. Photo by Frank Ooms

On April 28, the History Colorado Center in Denver officially opened its doors to the public. The brand-new, interactive museum celebrates 10,000 years of Colorado stories, sagas, and natural wonders, and takes visitors back through time to experience the diverse chapters of the state’s past. From the 19th-century trading post at Bent’s Fort to the slaughter of Cheyenne and Arapaho during the Sand Creek Massacre, the museum showcases both the highlights and the darker periods of Colorado. Below are images from two of the museum’s exhibits: Destination Colorado and Colorado Stories. If you can’t make it out west this summer to visit the museum itself, we hope you’ll enjoy virtually browsing a few artifacts from our 38th state.

An advertisement encouraging people to move West and settle the town of Keota, Colorado. Photo courtesy of History Colorado Center

In the Destination Colorado exhibit, visitors can explore the town of Keota, Colorado, circa 1920. Now abandoned, Keota was founded in 1880 in the state's eastern plains as a farming community. The exhibit recreates the town during its heyday, when it boasted a peak population of 140 residents. The high school, train depot, general store, and a homestead house and barn have all been brought back to life in the museum. There are also over 500 artifacts on view, including a 25 lb. peanut butter tin from Keota's general store, a suitcase-style picnic basket set that kept dishes safe during bumpy car rides, and an interactive Keota High School yearbook.

Historic Colorado license plate. Photo courtesy of History Colorado Center

Historic license plates are also on view in the Destination Colorado exhibit. Colorado first issued state license plates in 1913. Before 1913, cities issued numbers and owners made their own plates.

Dynamite powder thawer. Hendrie & Boltoff Manufacturing of Denver sold this dynamite powder thawer (circa 1910), which kept the nitroglycerin in dynamite above its freezing point of 55° F—at which point it becomes unstable. Photo courtesy of History Colorado Center

In the Colorado Stories exhibit, 9,500 square feet of space is comprised of eight different sections, each sharing the history of different communities and eras. The above photo features a dynamite powder thawer, featured as part of a recreated silver mine, circa 1880. Visitors can virtually descend into a mine shaft, and will learn about the backbreaking labor that miners endured as they extracted precious metals from Colorado's mountains.

An Uncompahgre Ute headdress from the 1880s. Ute tribes used natural materials and goods acquired through trade to decorate clothing and ceremonial pieces. European trade goods like glass beads, red wool, and silk ribbons decorate this headdress. Photo courtesy of Colorado History Center

The state's earliest residents were the Ute people, whose community once spread across Colorado, Utah, and northern New Mexico. Although the Ute population is today largely diminished, the community's traditions and history still remain strong. The museum focuses on the Ute's family values, commitment to protecting the natural environment, and continued leadership through the 21st century. Visitors can also learn about the Bear Dance, an ancient celebration of springtime and renewal.

A photo promoting Lincoln Hills. Image courtesy of Colorado History Center

Although Colorado is today a favorite spot for mountain getaways, there was a time when not everyone was invited to enjoy the state's natural beauty. During the Jim Crow era, Lincoln Hills was one of the nation's few resorts open to African-Americans, and at the time of its founding in 1922, the only one west of the Mississippi. In this section of Colorado Stories, the history of Lincoln Hills unfolds, and the state's periods of intolerance are explored. Artifacts on display include Ku Klux Klan robes and a "Green Book" travel guide offering African Americans advice on how to travel safely.

Are you a service member who has visited a Blue Star Museum and would like to share your experience? We're always looking for guest bloggers! If interested, please e-mail Rebecca at grossr@arts.gov or contact us through the comments section.

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