Archive for the 'Cultural resources' Category

Trails Thursday: Museo de las Tres Colonias

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

Sugar beet workers, circa 1926. Photo from the Fort Collins Local History Archive

It’s almost sugar beet harvesting time, and if you’re not a long-time resident of Fort Collins (and I mean really long!) or a local history buff, you may have no idea how big a beet can be in the life of a town. Curious? Explore the Museo de las Tres Colonias, one of the stops on the Trails of Northern Colorado cultural heritage driving tour.

The sugar beet is at the heart of a story that helped bring two major ethno-cultural groups to Fort Collins: Germans from Russia (also sometimes known as the Volga Germans), and Hispanics. Both groups were brought here in the early decades of the 20th century to work in the sugar beet fields and processing plants owned by the Great Western Sugar Company, and both groups — first the Germans from Russia and then the Hispanics — lived in the small neighborhoods near the Great Western Plant that we know today as Andersonville, Alta Vista, and Buckingham: the tres colonias.

The Hispanic heritage and stories of these neighborhoods, and the part they played in the growth of Fort Collins, is preserved at the Museo de las Tres Colonias. The Museo is open on the 3rd Saturday of each month, from 12:30 to 3:00, and is located at 425 10th St.

“Trails of Northern Colorado” website launches

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

Now that summer is here, it’s time to get serious about getting out and seeing some sights. If you live in northern Colorado, or are planning on visiting us, we’re excited to announce a new Google Maps-based driving tour that will take you to some of the truly outstanding places in our area.

The Trails of Northern Colorado” is a website created by the Museum as part of a U.S. Park Service Preserve America grant. Literally over 12,000 years in the making, the website offers three different driving tours of the distinctive regions of northern Colorado — the foothills, the river, and the plains. Each tour consists of multiple stops, each with its own unique cultural and natural history story to tell. Taken together, the tour reveals many stories and hidden gems that even long-time residents may not be aware of.

I don’t want to give too much more away, other than to say “Go explore!” We really hope you’ll enjoy this great new resource.

You can read more about the project on the Museum’s website.

Behind the scenes: Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Next in our series of behind-the-scenes looks at what makes the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center tick, the roving More to Explore reporter ambushed interviewed Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation and frequent contributor to this blog. Part I of a two-parter.

Curator Katie Bowell (in ball cap) leading an interpretive program at the Lindenmeier overlook, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. Photo courtesy City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program

More to Explore: What does a Curator of Cultural Interpretation do?

Katie Bowell:  My primary job is to be the liaison between the Museum and the City’s Natural Areas Program, and so I help to interpret the historical and cultural stories of our natural spaces. And I also help bring biology, ecology, and other natural processes into the interpretations we’re doing in our museum. Since I’ve been here I’ve also helped develop a variety of interpretive resources, and I work on the Digital Media team and have a lot of fun with our blog and our website and Facebook. So I get to do a little bit of everything, but the main focus in almost everything that I do is still that intersection between history, culture, nature, and science, how to create interdisciplinary narratives and interpretations. It’s really interesting, I haven’t done anything like this before and when I mention what I do to most people, usually they’re surprised, and then they think it’s really cool.

MtE: What are some of the projects you’ve been working on?

KB:  The very first thing that I did when I got here was to work on the Soapstone Prairie project, which had been something that the Museum and the Natural Areas department and the City of Fort Collins had been working on for a couple years before I got here. It’s an incredible shortgrass prairie property, and on it was the Lindenmeier Archaeological Site, one of the largest Folsom-complex sites in all of North America and one of the most diverse in terms of the artifacts found there and the people who lived there. And this is where the Museum-Natural Areas partnership really started, working on the Soapstone project. Mmy first job was to help develop the interpretation up there. So we have interpretive panels, and we have volunteer-led programs that go on all summer long, and in our first summer I think it may have been the most visitors to programs that they had at a natural area—somebody told me that, but I don’t know for sure. And so it’s been very successful. I’ve worked on that, and I worked on the Lindenmeier booklet [recently published by the Museum], and did a whole bunch of interpretations with Natural Areas. We re-did interpretive panels and developed a booklet for Bobcat Ridge Natural Area, focusing on the pioneer and early European history of the property, and interpreted some of the buildings that are still there.

One of the things that I’m really proud of is our blog. I have loved being a contributor to it, and it’s so fun. It’s a great way for me to keep learning too, because along with writing about things that I know, I’ll hear something on the news that I don’t have a background in and half an hour later I have just enough knowledge to be dangerous, and I get to write about it.

I also do training with Natural Areas staff. One of the things that the Museum is very passionate about is that if you’re going to interpret history, if you’re going to interpret people, that you do it with care and consideration,  respect for the stories you’re telling and the people they’re about, and with as much accuracy as you possibly can. So we’ve had great cultural training sessions with Natural Areas staff, so now the people out there are not only fabulous interpreters of biology and ecology but are great interpreters of history too. I’ve given a couple of presentations throughout the state on how to do this as well, for Colorado Open Spaces and even the Colorado Preservation Society, so we’ve gone to people who normally interpret nature and said, how can you add history to this?, and we’ve gone to people who interpret history and say, how can you add some nature and biology to this? And so we keep smushing everything together.

Since I’ve started here, the last year and a half, I’ve gotten to learn the history of Colorado and western America. I’ve been really immersed in learning about the native cultures we work with and their histories, and getting really a much broader and more interesting perspective on our experience here in northern Colorado than I would have ever thought about, I think, if I had lived here and just continued to be a biologist. So I love that part of my job is that I get to keep learning all the time.

Death of a dinosaur

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

Damaged dinosaur sculpture (photo from the Coloradoan)

Such a bummer of a headline in the Coloradoan this morning: the Swetsville metal dinosaur sculpture that has stood watch over cars traveling I-25 for 20 years was crushed in an accident overnight.

My daughter and I pass the dino daily on our way into Fort Collins, her for school and me for work. My daughter is three, so the conversation as we pass the sculpture generally goes as follows:

“Look Mommy! I see a dinosaur!”

“Wow! That’s so cool! What does a dinosaur say?”

“Roar! Roar!” (said with clawing hand motions).

I imagine this same conversation repeated over and over in any number of cars by any number of kids and parents. This simple moment will not be repeated again. One of the Swets family members was quoted in the paper saying that the dinosaur can’t be repaired.

That makes me sad.

The other part of me is mad. The Swets have maintained the Swetsville Zoo on their property for decades. Open to the public for FREE, it’s a wonderland of fantasy and whimsy created from iron scraps. Bill Swets, the creator, was a farmer with imaginative eyes and able hands, an artist whose medium was metal.

One of his creations, “Tiny,” had a home in Old Town Fort Collins before it became a much-loved fixture at the old Discovery Science Center on Prospect. When Discovery Science Center moved to the Fort Collins Museum building in the summer of 2009, Tiny returned home to the Swetsville Zoo. In recent years, some other sculptures have been moved and remaining parts of the zoo consolidated to make way for improvements to Harmony Road. Now comes this additional loss.

Reportedly, the Swets family will be selling the farm at some point in the future. We will be losing this unique part of the artistic landscape of Fort Collins. We’ve already lost pieces of it to progress and reckless driving (the driver admitted to speeding). Happily, the town of Timnath has purchased some of the sculptures for their park areas but they can’t preserve the zoo as in its entirety as it is now.

It’s a reminder to our community to appreciate what we have now – before, like “Dino,” it becomes just a memory.

Keeping the music alive, part II: March on!

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

I recently posted a blog, “Keeping the music alive, Fort Collins-style,” about the value of music as a cultural enrichment for our community. Lately, it seems that every time I’m in Old Town I can hear live music, from a band playing at the amphitheater to a kid strumming a guitar sitting on the bench outside Beau Jo’s Pizza. Last Friday night was no exception.

My family met me at the museum after work and we walked into Old Town for dinner at the La Creperie (yum). We had Walrus ice cream cones for dessert and as I wiped the dripping, melting chocolate off my 3 year-old daughter’s chin (and hands, and elbows, and knees…) the unmistakable sounds of drums filled the air. Not one drum, not even two, this was the sound of many drums.

We went to investigate and sure enough, as we rounded the corner onto College Avenue we found, lined up in front of the Stonehouse Grille, a sizable portion of Colorado State University’s marching band! The drum major conducted several rousing tunes including Trumpet Cheer and the CSU Fight Song. People walking along the street and those sitting a patio tables at restaurants and on the roof tops listened and clapped along, applauding and cheering at each new song.

What a great and pleasant surprise! The band was playing on Friday night to build momentum for the CSU football team’s home opener game (played Saturday against Weber State and in case you haven’t heard, the Rams won!), or perhaps the marching band played in celebration of CSU’s win over CU in the Rocky Mountain Showdown the previous weekend. No matter why they played, I’m just thrilled they did! It certainly enriched my family’s time in Old Town Friday night and I would just like to say thank you to those young musicians for doing so … Thank you!

(Editor’s note: Marching bands rock! Univ. of Missouri Class of ’82, Marching Mizzou trumpet section)

Lakota roots in LaPorte: “This was my family”

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

Check out a great article in the current edition of the North Forty News about area history and contemporary Native American connections to northern Colorado:

LaPorte visitor explores his Lakota, French roots

Another perspective on artifact looting

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

We’ve written several times in this blog about artifact looting, most recently in regards to the June raid and arrests made by Federal agents in Blanding, Utah. That story in particular has sparked a lot of  interest and emotion, especially here in the West.

People who illegally collect artifacts from public lands offer a variety of justifications, many of which are being used by the folks who were caught in the Blanding sting: it’s a time-honored community tradition; the artifacts will just end up in a box in some archaeologist’s lab, so why not pick them up; we’re just doing what everyone else does. Whatever the justification, the fact still remains that it is a crime to remove artifacts from public land.

Removing artifacts also destroys much of what those artifacts can tell us, scientifically. Without context — where an object was found, what was found with it and around it — all we’re left with are disconnected fragments. Archaeologists and museum professionals have weighed in on this subject in regards to the Blanding cases and artifact looting in general.

But there’s a third consideration that received scant, if any, ink in the Blanding saga, and that’s the voice of the people who are the cultural and spiritual heirs of these artifacts. And while there’s no such thing as a “pan-Indian” perspective or opinion on how to treat artifacts, there are those who believe that these objects retain a spiritual quality that goes beyond antiquities laws and scientific processes. From this point of view, the question of what to do with an artifact has a simple answer: Don’t pick it up. It doesn’t belong to you.

Last year, the Fort Collins Museum began a film project to document Native American elders speaking on this topic. The resulting film, “Meeting in the Center with Respect,” debuted in May 2009 as part of the opening of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, a place that’s also home to artifacts ranging from 12,000 years old to those of the historic era. It’s an opportunity to hear an often unheard voice and to get a different perspective on what meaning objects have, and how their connections survive across time, space, and cultural disruption.

The situation in southeastern Utah only highlights how much education still needs to be done to help all of us understand the ethical responsibility we have to protect, respect, and conserve ancestral sites and artifacts.


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