For 75 years, the Museum of Boulder has been the keeper of All Things Boulder. Or at least about 45,000 things Boulder. That’s how many historical artifacts the museum has catalogued in its Gunbarrel storage facility.
Needless to say, most of those items stay there: carefully preserved behind closed doors. Even with the museum’s new location in downtown, significantly bigger than its former home base in a historic home on the hill, there’s not enough space to meaningfully present every slice of Boulder’s past, no matter how fascinating each may be.
But this year, in celebration of “the Muse’s” big 75th birthday, its bringing out 75 unique, never-before-seen objects from the shadows to put them on display. The exhibit, Archive 75, displays the artifacts and documents and tells their stories, as a way to continue to share Boulder’s history with the community.
Archive 75 dates back more than 150 years, from when this area was a tiny pioneer mining town, to its current role as an international leader in science, tech and outdoor rec.
The exhibit shares a variety of tales, from the heartbreaking to the inspiring, in the main gallery on the first floor. It runs October through March, is open to the public with general admission and will also be accented by various other special events, like lectures and workshops (to be determined).
It took more than a year to put Archive 75 together, led by curator Kristen Lewis.
“Some objects are predominantly about the thing itself. Some are more about the person or people associated with the item,” she says. “Still others embody their time, place, culture, etc. Each artifact bears its own nuances for visitors to be inspired by and reflect upon.”
Archive 75 is not designed to be a comprehensive look at Boulder’s past and it’s not chronological, but the pieces were chosen for a reason, Lewis says.
“These 75 artifacts showcase a range of prevailing tales, previously overlooked stories and items that haven’t fit within previous exhibition themes,” she says.
You can see other pieces of Boulder’s past in the permanent Boulder Experience gallery on the second floor.
The artifacts for Archive 75 highlight the museum’s collection, while also recognizing underserved community members, Lewis says. So you can expect to learn about new faces, gaps in cultural representation, deeper stories and treasured tales, she says. These aren’t the most famous stories or even necessarily the most comprehensive or significant. But they’re each, in their own way, interesting, insightful and unique, Lewis says.
For example, there’s a bloomer suit from the 1800s that belonged to one of the region’s “trailblazing naturalists,” Martha Ann Maxwell, who was an avid hiker, according to Lori Preston, the museum’s new executive director.
You can also see the shoes worn by Lucile Berkeley Buchanan Jones, the first black woman to graduate from the University of Colorado. She graduated with a degree in German in 1918, but she was not permitted to walk in the graduation ceremony. The shoes on display were made for her wedding in 1926 and indicative of her black, middle-class status and feminism, the museum says.
A handful of objects in the exhibit also connect Native Americans to the Boulder region.
Over the past 75 years, the Museum of Boulder (originally founded as the Boulder Historical Society, the nonprofit that still runs the museum today) has continued to grow, but staff says it has stayed true to its mission: to provide a context for the present and a vision for the future.
Part of those future plans are to build out a full, educational, indoor-outdoor space for children. The Children’s Discovery Zone would include an interactive 1,300-square-foot indoor space for children under 8 to practice discovery, creativity, imaginative play and self-expression. It would also include a 900-square-foot outdoor space with the only Luckey Climbing structure in Colorado. These sculptures are part art, part jungle gym and challenge kids to solve problems, play and think spatially. The museum is currently raising the $2 million for the project.
The museum’s archives grow every year. In fact, in 2017, the museum added more than 1,000 new objects to its collection.
In addition to the Collection Facility in Gunbarrel, the museum also has protected more than 900,000 historic documents and photos, which live in the Carnegie Branch Library adjacent to the museum.
The museum is also working with Native American and other communities on how to best feature ancestral objects from its collection (especially things that were collected by people outside that community). As for now, the museum only displays artifacts that it is sure were acquired properly and are appropriate to display and interpret. This includes items from Native American tribes, as well as personal items taken during war as battlefield souvenirs.