Archive for September, 2009

Our beautiful state flower

by Star Seastone, Visitor Services Assistant

Columbines come in many colors, but only the lovely lavender and white variety is Colorado’s designated state flower. Aquilegia caerulea is commonly known as the Colorado columbine or the Rocky Mountain columbine. The scientific name of this beautiful bloom was derived in 1753 by the famous biologist Linneaus, and the common name derives from the Latin word for dove.

In 1891, Colorado school children overwhelmingly voted the Rocky Mountain columbine their favorite flower over the second place cactus. In 1899, a women’s club in Cripple Creek went to work to have this favorite blossom adopted as Colorado’s flower.  Senate Bill 261 passed on April 4, 1899, making the designation official.

In 1925, the Colorado General Assembly approved a bill to protect our showy blossom. The law made it the responsibility of each Colorado resident to protect the state flower from needless destruction or waste. The bill established rules about picking and digging the flower and defined penalties for violations of the law.

It is unlawful for any person to pick columbines, gather them or tear them up by the roots when they are growing on any public land. It is also unlawful to pick or gather the flowers on private land without the previous consent of the landowner. Any person who violates any of these provisions may be convicted of a misdemeanor and may consequently be punished by a fine of not less than $5 or more than $50.

You can observe this ornate flower, which is a favorite of hummingbirds as well as school children, all summer long. It is found across the Rocky Mountains from the foothills to the alpine regions. It can grow up to 24″ tall and is commonly found in aspen groves, open forests, meadows, and on mountain slopes. Grow this popular flower in your garden, too. Observe, photograph, or grow them, and always remember to protect them.

Photo by Josef F. Stuefer

Photo by Josef F. Stuefer

Calling all photographers!

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

As we plan for the new Museum (which will break ground in 2010), we’re launching pilot projects to test with our visitors. Our first pilot project is a photography challenge, where we will be experimenting with image display, and how people interact with photos in the Museum.

We need your help!

For our first project, we’re looking for photos of urban wildlife from the northern Colorado area. We’re asking participants to add their photos to our Flickr group, which you can find at Read through the instructions on the group page, then start uploading!

The Museum will begin showing this photo project on Saturday, October 17th. Come check out the photos, add your own stories of urban wildlife in the “Field Notes” section, or exercise your artistic skills by drawing a picture of an urban wildlife encounter (raccoon tails hanging out of a garbage can, anyone?). This pilot project will be running through the end of the year, so participate early and participate often!

Tell her about it

by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections

The newly refurbished “My Community” exhibit at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center highlights what I love best about the local history reflected in the Museum’s collection: that it is both uniquely deep in time frame and broad in scope. The stone objects from our region’s Folsom culture, as well as those from the even earlier Clovis culture, reach back further than any other representations of our history available. Conversely, we add objects from contemporary events and people to this collection every day: local 2008 presidential election materials, objects from burgeoning local businesses, and more. Where else in town do you see over ten thousand years of our region’s history represented?

By saying our collection is broad I mean that the museum’s collection interprets a wide variety of themes. This is because we are simply our community’s museum and not its art museum or archaeological museum; we are not devoted to a particular era, or group, or individual. Anything that happens in our region, or exercises a strong influence on it, has a place in the Museum’s collection, and may end up interpreted in a Museum exhibit.

About eight years ago a desire to have the Museum’s main gallery better reflect this rich collection prompted the development of the original “My Community” exhibit. Museum staff designed this exhibit to bring forward, through artifacts from the collection, portions of our population which possessed a strong individual identity or local history but were under-represented in the rest of the gallery: the Germans from Russia population, the many Native American individuals and groups, and the Hispanic population. This exhibit was also designed to present stories about the development of our community that had not found a place elsewhere, under the designation “Town Builders.”

The resulting exhibit has been a popular addition to our main gallery since its completion. While fragile artifacts have been rotated out of this exhibit, most of the objects included in the original plan have remained on exhibit. This fall I have been involved in revamping the Museum’s “My Community” exhibit; this involved choosing new objects and stories to use to present the exhibit’s original themes.

The research I did while working on this exhibit clarified for me the essential job objects do in broadening and deepening our understanding of our community’s history. One artifact we’re adding to the exhibit is a third place ribbon Victor Bueno won in a 100 yard race at the Chicano Olympics, which were held, according to the printing on the ribbon, in Fort Collins’ Buckingham Park in the summer of 1976. Wanting to find some background information and maybe even some photos to include in the exhibit, I spent two days going through books, online sources, and newspapers — all without finding a single word about any Chicano Olympics. Surely the memory of this event exists beyond this small white ribbon and the printed certificate preserved along with it, but it sure isn’t easy to find. Another community member, Adolfo Gallegos, is represented in the exhibit with the equipment he used to repair shoes and ranching gear out of his Buckingham neighborhood home for over forty years. In my research I’ve been unable to find any other materials documenting this Fort Collins entrepreneur. I’ve been surprised, actually, how often I’ve discovered people or events through the collection that seem almost invisible otherwise.

This brings me to what is most exciting to me about the Museum’s “My Community” exhibit: its function as a conversation; an ongoing conversation our community can have with itself. Though I’ve exhausted my immediate sources, for example, without finding anything more than Victor Bueno’s winning ribbon to document the 1976 Chicano Olympics, there must be members of our community who were there and could share what they remember. If Bueno’s ribbon, or the Ute Bear Dance rasp, or the wool shawl can bring up a subject, my hope is that people will reply, will help complete the story the Museum only caught pieces of. The photo montages behind the objects can work the same way: that adorable little girl sitting on a porch edge with a friend, or a maybe a brother – is she your aunt, your grandma, your wife?

My hope is that you will tell us about her. Or maybe about your dad’s experiences wielding a sugar beet knife just like the one on exhibit, or how you like seeing the noodle maker but it’s not anything like what you used to make noodles for your wedding dinner. Did you have one of those early Water Piks? Have you ever ridden side saddle? Did you do it in an impeccably tailored suit?

I invite you to come to the Museum and see the newly refurbished “My Community” exhibit. And when you do, please, please don’t let it ramble on all by itself. Talk back and help us keep our community conversation lively.

Framed projectile points from the Roy G. Coffin collection

Framed projectile points from the Roy G. Coffin collection

Victor Bueno's Chicano Olympics ribbon

Victor Bueno's Chicano Olympics ribbon

Ute Bear Dance rasp

Ute Bear Dance rasp

1962 model Water Pik

1962 model Water Pik

Sugar beet knife

Sugar beet knife

Side saddle

Side saddle

Science at home: What killed the bees?

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

I’ve been contemplating dead bees. One day last week, I noticed many dead bees: one group was on the sidewalk to the north of the Museum, the other group was on the driveway at my parents’ house in Windsor. In each place, the number of dead bees was between 5 and 7. Is it possible that there is always that many dead bees lying around and I just haven’t ever noticed? Somehow I doubt it. So I got a bee in my bonnet (pun intended, sorry – couldn’t resist) to find out why these two groups died because it seemed too much to be coincidence.

First, I mentioned the dead bees to Katie, who is our resident entomologist, for all intents and purposes. She told me that bees will clean out their hives every now and then, pushing the bodies of dead bees out of the hive. Did two hives have a “fall cleaning”? I considered that, but if hive cleaning was the origin of these two different groups of dead bees (which would be a heck of a coincidence), I’d expect to see the bodies in one location, closer together, under or near a hive, right? Instead, these dead bees were lying over distances of about 10 feet, seemingly too scattered to be tossed from a hive, not to mention, I couldn’t spot a hive near either one of these locations.

Next on my idea list: are these dead bees related to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? First, my disclaimer: I’ve read a little bit on CCD, but I have no depth of knowledge about it. I do know that adult worker bees disappear from a colony suffering CCD (the cause of which is currently being investigated, but no definitive answer has been identified yet). Since those adult worker bees aren’t dying at the hive, they are dying elsewhere. Could two groups of adult bees, perhaps abandoning their hives as part of CCD, and separated by about 10 miles, each die with the individuals within five to ten feet of one another, all within a day? Again, it’s a coincidence I find hard to accept.

So then I thought about wildfire smoke. On Tuesday, September 1, the same day I saw the dead bees, of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a smoke advisory for north-central Colorado, recommending that people limit their outdoor activity. Smoke from the large wildfires in southern California as well as numerous smaller ones in other locations, including here in Colorado, blanketed our community that day, making the sky very hazy and reducing the quality of our air to “moderate.” I wondered, could wildfire smoke kill bees? I thought it unlikely, but I logged onto the Internet to find out.

Online, I found numerous sites about beekeepers’ use of smokers on hives. Smoke prevents bees in a hive from recognizing the alarm pheromones released by guard bees when the hive is opened by a beekeeper. Smoke also causes a feeding response: where there is smoke, there is fire, so bees feed in case they must abandon their hive due to approaching wildfire. Along with this information, however, I learned that smoke, in fact, does not kill bees.

In a fun side note, I found an online newsletter from the Puget Sound Bee Association with an article written by a beekeeper describing the day a wildfire approached his hives, which were behind a blockade set up by the fire department (Smoke and Honey, by Jason Nelson, on page 3). A firefighter let him access his hives with the promise not to use a smoker – he could light no fire of any kind. The beekeeper reported that this wasn’t a problem: there was enough ambient smoke in the air that his bees were calm. And he didn’t mention any dead bees.

So I’m left still wondering, what killed all of those bees, in two places, in one day? If you have an idea, please share!

From the Archive: More Cheeseburgers!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator of the Local History Archive

I’m sure all of you went out and grabbed a burger and fries for National Cheeseburger Day that took place on Friday, September 18. If not, be sure to write it in your calendar for next year! To get you in the mood for a burger bash, check out some of the restaurants that used to tempt the fast-food palates of Fort Collins citizens in the past.


“We grind our own beef” at Morrie’s In & Out Drive-In Beefburgers, located at 1611 South College, circa 1955.


The Original Hamburger Stand Restaurant, 616 South College in 1995. Thirty-five cents a burger= quite a deal!


Kentucky Fried Chicken, 1817 South College, 1968.


Eye-spy Challenge! Can you find the McDonald’s Restaurant in this 1968 view of 2501 South College?

Big Dinosaur Started in a Human-Sized Package

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

According to Science magazine, scientists have discovered what they believe to be an early side branch of the evolutionary group that gave rise to T. rex about 60 million years later (apparently those puny arms have been a family trait for quite some time…). Meet Raptorex kriegsteini!

200991711Image courtesy of Science Magazine

Visit Science for the full story.

It’s National Cheeseburger Day!

by Toby J. Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator


Louis Ballast, born in 1910, has affected the lives of almost every man, woman, and child in this great nation of ours. Lou was the operator of the Humpty-Dumpty Barrel; a restaurant located in downtown Denver. As such, he was constantly looking for ways to improve his simple meals and attract more customers. In a moment of inspiration he put a slice of cheese on a hamburger. The cheese melted over the freshly grilled meat patty, filling every nook and cranny with delicious, dairy goodness.

And good it was; so good in fact that Louis Ballast applied for a patent on his invention, which he christened ‘The Cheeseburger’ in March 1935. Sure, other places have claimed to be the home of the cheeseburger, and perhaps others had combined cheese with their hamburgers earlier than Louis, but he had the foresight to seek the patent. As with so many things, the term cheeseburger has become somewhat generic, but it all started right here in colorful Colorado.

Sadly, the Humpty-Dumpty Barrel no longer exists, having burned to the ground many years ago. There is an historical marker located at its former site located at 2776 N. Speer Blvd, in Denver, Colorado.

Show some state pride by having a cheeseburger today!

September 2009

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