History Colorado Center
November 30, 2012 by Tori Wallace
The new History Colorado Center keeps bringing visitors in is a wonderful place for all to enjoy.
A trip to the new History Colorado Center might just change a person’s mind about what a “typical” museum experience is like. Formerly the Colorado History Museum, this new building, located at 12th and Broadway, is designed to bring visitors back time and again. State Historian and Director of Exhibits Dr. William Convery explains, “Formerly, you would only come to the museum twice; once as a kid on a field trip and again as a parent or grandparent as a chaperone.” But the interactive philosophy of the new History Colorado Center invites patrons to not only visit and learn about all that encompasses the history of this great state, but to do so in a way that appeals to all, no matter where the visitors come from or what their age is.
Upon entering the museum, the patrons first encounter an expansive lobby filled with pillars and lights. Past the requisite café and gift shop, they enter a four story atrium dominated by an extensive terrazzo tile floor featuring a topographic map of Colorado. Residing on this map, visitors encounter a futuristic “time machine” that looks like something straight from an Orson Wells movie. Visitors can move the time machine to different locations on the map, pick a time period, and then have the machine explain aspects of the history of that chosen place and time. Stories from Molly Brown to the Great Tomato Wars, and even a clip from South Park are featured on this wonderful gadget which allows the viewer to look at what makes Colorado so special. The time machine can accommodate several visitors at once and, as Dr. Convery explained, “It encourages dialogue and interaction with others.” Another feature in this atrium area is a magnificent and uniquely designed video monitor, constantly displaying interesting Colorado history stories.
At the History Colorado Center, the guests won’t find dioramas typical of other “normal” museums. Instead, all exhibits are designed to transport the visitor back in time to iconic places. An example of this is the exhibit called Destination Colorado. This space takes the visitor back to the year 1918 to the small town of Keota. This now-ghost town once flourished around an important railroad line. As visitors enter the exhibit, they are literally inside a store, the school, and a farm, giving them a sense of what life there was like. Guests can also take a drive through the countryside in an actual Ford Model-T car. Residents of Keota portrayed by actors – both real and on screen – explain the pleasures and hardships of life on the prairie.
Upstairs, the visitors enter a series of exhibits called “Colorado Stories.” Here, the visitor can take part in more interactive environments, highlighting important stories in Colorado’s history. One example that many visitors find exciting is the story of Steamboat Springs, and the influence of ski-jumping pioneer, Carl Howleson. In this exhibit, the visitor can take a ride and experience what an actual ski jump feels like. A visitor won’t find that at any normal museum! However, not all of the stories are happy, as witnessed by the exhibit depicting Amache, Colorado’s Japanese internment camp during World War II, where Japanese-American citizens were forced to move. Throughout the Colorado Stories exhibit, the visitor is placed in the shoes of people who lived in Colorado during different times and in different places with tales being told by that of either an elder, a teen, or, in some cases, a child.
The new History Colorado Center has only been open since April of 2012 and is still evolving. The newest exhibit to be featured at the History Colorado Center is called: “Denver A-Z.” This exhibit highlights some examples of what makes Denver such a beloved city, and why so many have chosen to live here. This small gallery space will feel like the big city that Denver is, by highlighting iconic architecture like the Denver Art Museum, the Brown Palace Hotel, the D&F Tower (the famous clock tower on the 16th Street Mall). This exhibit will also be packed with many interactive features that are sure to be interesting to visitors of all ages.
Dr. Convery explained why they chose this exhibit: “We have all these stories from around the state but why not Denver? Why not explain why we love it.” With new exhibits in the works for next year, and items being added to the collection, it makes the center more enticing to visitors to come back again and again. The cornerstone of the History Colorado Center philosophy is that the museum will always be fluid and dynamic.
So next time residents and visitors alike are looking to have a good time downtown and want to learn a little about this great state in the process, they should check out the History Colorado Center; a person might just be transported back in time.
Visit History Colorado Center online at: http://www.historycoloradocenter.org