New Experience #14: History Colorado Center

This week we committed to relocating to Pueblo, so there were plenty of chores to do around the move. We also wanted to spend time with friends and family here before settling two hours away. After a busy week of socializing and planning, and a Saturday spent reorganizing furniture between our current home and storage unit (yes, that’s as un-fun as it sounds), we thought it was a good timing for a new experience outing.

I’d wanted to see the Toys of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s exhibit at the History Colorado Center for a while, so we headed there at opening time Sunday before the Broncos-Patriots playoff game. I’d never been to the History Colorado Center, which opened in 2012, nor its predecessor, the Colorado History Museum. The new museum is run by History Colorado, which runs several other sites, and is a Smithsonian Affiliate.

   
 

Street parking is free in Denver on Sundays, so we scored a spot a block away and walked over to the museum. A foreign gentleman stopped us along the way seeking directions to the nearby Clyfford Still museum (which is also on our to-do list), which we happily gave. And still, it was barely 10 am when we arrived. This turned out to be a really good plan. After acquiring our tickets ($12 for adults), we headed right up to the Toys exhibit on the top (4th) floor. Only two other people were in the exhibit for the first ~15 minutes, so we really got to enjoy the items on display, read many descriptions, and watch some video clips. It’s amazing how awful TV commercials used to be! The exhibit had a decent selection of toys, many of which were familiar, and the decade-by-decade living room settings were fun. Overall, it was cute, but didn’t “wow,” so I would not recommend going out of one’s way to experience it.

The 70’s Living Room

 

Awesome Phone Company Truck!

 
After we finished with Toys, we visited the other top-floor temporary exhibit, El Movimiento: The Chicano Movement in Colorado. This was interesting, as it is not part of the history I learned in school or heard about growing up in Ohio. It was great to put actions to names one hears in Denver, like Corky Gonzales, namesake of the newest branch of the Denver Public Library, who advocated for Latino rights in the 1960s and 1970s. I also did not know that 6 activists were killed in bombing incidents in Boulder in 1974. The case of Los Seis de Boulder never made it to any trial. You may recognize the name of Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter in the linked article–he is more famous for declining to indict the parents of JonBenét Ramsey some 25 years later (yes, he really was DA that long). Outside the exhibit was this wonderfully inventive piece of art telling the tale of Chicano peoples in this part of the world, which sadly cannot be fully captured in a photograph. (Note: The image at the top is actually a mirror that allows for viewing of the back of the piece.)

  

Next, we looked at the museum “map” and decided to forgo the permanent exhibits on floors 1 & 2 (there will need to be a return visit–perhaps when we have out-of-town guests?) and check on the basement exhibit on homelessness in Colorado

 
This is an issue that continues to trouble me, whether I see campers on Pearl Street in Boulder, or young people on the hill at Commons Park near Union Station in Denver, or older homeless congregating on sidewalks and streets near the shelters at Park & Lawrence where they once had park space to rest during the day. I know we as a society are not doing enough, but the answers to this crisis seem elusive. Charlotte’s “Housing First” approach looks promising, and I hope that Colorado will continue to use and study this option. I liked how the exhibit explored both causes and consequences of homelessness. It showed many of the struggles that the homeless face, as well as some of the issues that may have resulted in their homelessness. As a history museum, they took a somewhat historical approach, showing boom-and-bust cycles that left miners and pioneers homeless, but most of the exhibit was contemporary. The experience was also clearly geared to engage schoolchildren in considering the problem, which I hope will help develop compassion in young people.

We finished up our short museum experience with a trip to the time machine. This large and heavy contraption:

 

moves across the huge map of Colorado on the first floor.

 

When you move it over one of the gold discs, it activates the time machine and you can choose to see one of three mini-movies about historical events or persons in that region of the state. We choose the southern Front Range in honor of our impending move and saw movies about Jim Beckwourth, a half-black man who lived with the Crow Indians; driving cattle from Texas to Colorado on the Goodnight-Loving trail; and the construction of the Air Force Academy. The time machine is a cool “toy,” but it really only allows for one group at a time to use it, so we were happy for the museum’s sparse attendance on this playoff-day morning.
A quick trip to the gift shop ended our visit, and we headed home. We’d missed a necessary ingredient for our game-day chili, so we got to stop at the grocery in the last hour before game time. Not the best plan, but they did have lots of chicken fresh from the fryer. Go Broncos!

  

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