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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Learning About Colorado at the History Museum

This summer I’ve tried to make a better effort to visit some of the local museums and sites and try to further my knowledge of Denver and Colorado. I figure I have no excuse not to with three day weekends.

This past Thursday I made my second trip to the Colorado History Museum.
A few years back I was playing host to a visiting journalist on a fellowship from Romania and took him the museum so he could learn a bit more about the state. After all, it’s not as though most people from outside the country, if inside even, know anything about Colorado other than mountains and cowboys.
Since my previous visit a lot of the museum has been renovated and updated, particularly the plains Indians and Mesa Verde sections.
While my interest in local history doesn’t particularly lie in these areas, I did still find it fascinating because of the way they have organized everything. For instance, walking through the Mesa Verde section was like walking along the cliff dwellings in the four corners area. All of the exhibits were placed in the area with information so you could learn about it as you walked through the ancient structure. The section for the plains Indians was laid out in a different manner, but still very well and thoughtfully done. There were lots of excellent models, including a cross section of a teepee, as well as information on how their trade routes worked. I found it incredibly fascinating, particularly since it’s something I had never heard of or contemplated before, that the Comanche Indians traded with people as far away as the Pacific Ocean and France. Yes, France. They had trade set up with people as far away as Paris.
There were many other exhibits, such as one on mining, that were also interesting, but what fascinated me the most was the giant timeline.
A Colorado timeline runs parallel to a United States one, on the top of the display, along with several biographies and pictures, in between the timelines, of different people that had a prominent role in shaping Colorado.
The person I read about that I was most interested in was Benjamin Stapleton. There wasn’t a complete biography written on him that was on display, but he was referenced in a small display on the Ku Klux Klan.
In the early 1900s Stapleton was mayor of Denver, and a member of the KKK. During that time the Klan had a strong membership in the Denver area and were able to influence elections and decisions, and thus get Stapleton elected.
But, it wasn’t publicly known, until after he left office, that Stapleton was a member of the KKK.
What makes this particularly interesting for me is that the international airport in Denver, until it moved to the northeast side of the metro area, was named for Stapleton. And now that the area has been redeveloped, the neighborhood there still holds his name.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to understand why this is since it seems more of an honor to have something named after you than anything, but I guess it’s just the way it is here.
Back in regards to the museum though, all in all I should say I was impressed with the exhibits. It had been updated since I was there last and is now a much better expereience and worth the low $7 admission…especially when you spend five hours in there like I did.
In truth though, I felt as though I rushed through much of it and should’ve given it a lot more time, particularly the exhibit on the 10th Mountain Division. The display was rather compact, but there was a lot of multi media features that I did not have time to get to that I would’ve liked to have seen.
If you get a chance, check it out sometime. I definitely recommend it for anyone, particularly those interested in history, but suggest you give it a good chunk of your day to get the most out of the museum.

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  1. Learning About the History of Colorado at the New History Colorado Center | Jason's Travels - July 9, 2012

    […] though the old Colorado history museum was more than out of date, and in incredible need of more space, I liked it. I felt it gave me a […]

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