Archive for July, 2009

From the Archive: Mouse ears for the inmates!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Local History Archive 

I was scrolling through microfilm of the old Fort Collins Triangle Review newspaper and came across this article from August 25, 1976 with the following headline:

county jail headline

Naturally, I had to read this article, and so do you. Here are some highlights:

One Fort Collins resident is anxiously awaiting to hear if she has won a trip to California, a new car, or cash. What makes her different is she is Mrs. Larimer County Jail.

Is the county jail a “missus” or even a woman for that matter? According to McCall’s Magazine’s latest sweepstakes contest, she is both.

Sheriff’s Capt. Jack Colwell, who is in charge of the jail, said he always wondered about Mrs. Jail’s gender until he received a letter from McCall’s. “Just think what $35,000 cash can do for you, Mrs. Jail. We would send off a check to you in Fort Collins for the full $35,000—yours to use at once.”

What’s more, McCall’s offered a possible trip to Disneyland or Disney World, with travel and lodgings on them. “I’d like to see them find accommodations for Mrs. Jail,” says Capt. Colwell. “The transportation costs alone would be terrific.”

Since Mrs. Jail is made of brick and is half a block long, Capt. Colwell doubts she will fit in the two-door sports coupe she might win, but he is interested in the seventh place prize of “very exclusive scarves.”

He said, “If they have a scarf big enough to fit Mrs. Jail, we’ll take it.”

While the jail staff isn’t sure if they will actually enter McCall’s contest, one thing is for sure. The cold steel bars will never be the same.

I scrolled ahead a few weeks through the microfilm, and it looks like Mrs. Larimer County Jail never won that trip to Disneyland. It’s too bad, really; I bet she would have loved Pirates of the Caribbean.

Take a trip to the Moon and back at the Museum

by Deb Price, Science Educator

The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center is opening a temporary exhibit, “To the Moon and Back,” Saturday, July 25 with a variety of special activities and programs. The event celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Live video broadcasts from Space Center Houston at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, and 12:30 pm will revisit the historical significance of that first touchdown on the Moon, plus provide a glimpse of upcoming missions to the Moon and to Mars. Interactive, hands-on space activities will be offered from 11 am to 2 pm in the gallery and the Museum courtyard.

Visitors will also have a chance to share memories of the first moon landing, and children are invited to share their vision for future space missions.

The temporary exhibit features artifacts on loan from NASA, including space helmets from the Apollo and space shuttle flights, moon rock replicas, in-flight space suit, astronaut food, and photographs of astronauts and other space scientists. The exhibit will be at the Museum through the end of August. The Museum is offering the exhibit and special activities through its partnership with Virtual Space Community, an outreach program through Space Center Houston.

All July 25th activities are included in the price of admission: $4 for adults, $3 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (60+). Children 2 and under are free. The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center is at 200 Mathews St. in downtown Fort Collins. For more information, go to the website at or call 970-221-6738.

From the Archive: Workin’ up a sweat

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Local History Archive 

Check out this fantastic image of physical fitness for women during the early 20th century. It’s from the Archive’s oversize photograph collection and dates to the early 1900s. The caption on the back of the original photograph states that the ladies are from a gym class at Colorado Agricultural College, present-day Colorado State University.

Perhaps the most charming part of this photograph is what is found alongside it: a piece of paper attached to a scrap of royal purple felt-like fabric. The paper reads “The suits were made of this material + each leg of the costume was two full widths of the material.”

Well, Spandex it is not….but it still looks like these ladies meant business when it came to fitness. 

Fighting illegal artifact looting: “A new kind of respect”

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

This past March I wrote about artifacts; specifically, what to do when you come across an artifact or cultural resource in one of our parks, trails, or natural spaces. The main message of the post was “you can look, but you can’t collect.” Collecting historic and prehistoric artifacts on public land is illegal under Colorado law, and transporting illegally collected artifacts across state lines is against federal law. However, even though it’s been over 100 years since the federal government passed the first laws protecting artifacts, illegal collecting still happens all over the country. And while some  illegally collected artifacts may end up on a mantel, others enter the stream of a robust black market that has ties to, among other things, the drug trade.

Last month, 24 people in Blanding, Utah, were indicted on charges of collecting and selling illegally acquired Native American artifacts, part of that very lucrative black market that exists for objects removed from archaeological sites.

NPR’s Howard Berkes wrote about the arrests here and the divided opinions within Blanding after the arrests here (be sure to check out the Photo Gallery “The Lure of Ancient Artifacts”).

I can understand the frustrations some people have over the current laws protecting artifacts; in our not-too-distant past collecting was legal and quite common. I also understand the bonds that people can feel towards artifacts; objects connect you to the past and, ultimately, to people and that is an invaluable experience. However, those reasonings don’t excuse the fact that, to quote Craig Childs, collecting “is a form of archaeological genocide, erasing the record of people from a place.” I hope that here, in Fort Collins, we will treat our archaeological sites with respect and take care of them for the future.

Anne O’Brien, a commentator on Berkes’ second article, put it well. “… it’s still hard to look down, see an arrow point or a pot uncovered by rain or a painted shard and leave it alone. That’s a new kind of respect.”

Fort Collins History Connection is LIVE!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Local History Archive 

Explore the NEW website for the Fort Collins Local History Archive at


archive website banner


This project is the culmination of over two years of work between Poudre River Public Library District and the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center. After selecting and testing a new database product (CONTENTdm®), migrating data from the old database to the new one, adding the Museum artifacts information to the new system, creating new workflow procedures for staff and volunteers, and creating a new website (whew!), we’re ready for you to enjoy! There is even a new name representing the collaboration between the Library and Museum – Fort Collins History Connection.

There are lots of new features to explore! Zoom in on maps, view scanned city directories, or browse the Native American collection in the Museum Artifacts area. Also try using the search box to uncover a myriad of historical resources.

Have fun and let us know what you think!

New Museum website launches

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

We had a big day at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center yesterday — we opened as a joint science and history experience, featuring both DSC’s best-loved hands-on interactive science exhibits and the Museum’s history exhibits (see the Coloradoan online for some great pictures and a video from yesterday). Since DSC closed at their Prospect Street location on May 30th, we’ve been working hard to create this new combined space where visitors can learn, explore, and have fun. We’re very excited about the results and hope you’ll come see us soon to experience it for yourself!

As part of our opening as a combined museum experience, we also launched our new Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center website. It’s at the same address — — but has a whole lot more to offer, including podcasts, videos, do-at-home science activities, information for educators and researchers, ideas for planning your visit, and more. Slinky, our ball python, is even getting in on the action — he’s Twittering his “snake’s-eye view” of goings-on at the Museum. You can follow him on Twitter at SlinkyWorld.

All of this is to say there’s a lot going on at the Museum! Come visit us, whether in person or online — there’s always more to explore.

July 2009

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