Archive for the 'Exhibits' Category

From the Archive: Hansen’s Café

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Fort Collins Local History Archive

Doesn’t this restaurant look great? Once located at 131 North College Avenue in Fort Collins, Hansen’s Café offered a variety of steaks and seafood to local residents in the 1960s. Despite the picture on the cover of the menu, however, I don’t see lobster as a dinner choice!

I have two favorite items: the Fat Man’s Special …

… and the Big Small Steak.

Do you remember going to Hansen’s? Share your memories by leaving a comment!


Museums and Native American Awareness Month

by Cory Gundlach, Exhibit Designer

iPhone pics 103In honor of Native American Awareness Month, I’d like to share a recent experience I had at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan. “Native American Dioramas in Transition” includes fourteen dioramas on Native American cultures, each of which now includes contextual information far beyond the institutional didactics that first accompanied the exhibit over fifty years ago.  In order to give you a general sense of the environment that surrounds this exhibit, I think it’s helpful to know a little bit about the museum itself. From the densely ornate rotunda, a grand stairway leads to exhibits on the upper levels.  The second floor has exhibits on prehistoric life, the third—Michigan wildlife, and the fourth—anthropology, geology, a planetarium, education room, gallery for temporary exhibits, and administrative offices. As you enter the fourth floor, “Native American Dioramas in Transition” is the first thing you see.  It is predominantly modular in design, composed of two horizontal registers built into the wall. Each includes seven dioramas, one above the other.  The exhibit basically exists in the hallway leading to other galleries and offices, although on the far right end of the installation, disconnected from the dioramas, there is a supplementary display of contemporary quotes.  These are comments taken from the public, ranging from elementary school students, their aides and teachers, to PhDs who work at the university and elsewhere.  These comments are also superimposed over and around the dioramas.  They are brightly colored and simply designed, and they dominate the exhibit—both visually and contextually.  In some cases, they obstruct the view into the diorama:

I like the dioramas because you can see new things that are different from what you’ve already seen.  Native American people used different things than we do.  They had different houses and foods, probably because they couldn’t find as many things as we have and maybe because they couldn’t pay for them.

–Liam Coolican, Third Grader, Bach Elementary, Ann Arbor

iPhone pics 076The original dioramas are well-crafted, romantic interpretations of indigenous cultures, dating to 1959.  They are what you would expect from a big expensive university museum whose entry is flanked by the dusty white marble busts of its founding fathers. As you stoop down to gaze into some of these little boxes, you can just imagine yourself among the nude and scantily clad Indians going about their daily business, thanks to Dr. Robert S. Butsch, “a zoologist and museum preparator of European descent.”  Superimposed over the diorama on the Haida, portrayed within the idyllic landscape on the Northwest Coast, a sticker label reads, “Who Tells the Story?”, and the other, “Native Americans were not consulted when these dioramas were made.”

iPhone pics 104Another reads,

Do Indians Belong with Dinosaurs?

Visitors arrive at the dioramas after passing by extinct dinosaurs, stuffed animals, and an endangered species exhibit.  Some museum visitors, especially children, get the impression that Native Americans are just like the dinosaurs—extinct. Or that they are somehow “primitive” because they are displayed with wildlife.

It is critical to note that after fifty years, this exhibit will soon close—dioramas and all. This comes after years of feedback from the public. But rather than simply remove what has been an embarrassment for some time, the museum had the foresight and humility to recontextualize this embarrassment into a contemporary dialogue on the politics of display, which, in this case, literally “puts people in a box.”  This colonial gaze as method of display sits beside a text panel that advocates the cooperation of museums with indigenous peoples. A specific example is provided that takes place at the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, on the Saginaw—Chippewa Indian Tribe Reservation.

I left the exhibit feeling transformed, inspired, and challenged.  I felt challenged to become more engaged in cultural exchange and the dialogue that informs the representation of indigenous culture.  As an exhibit designer at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, I feel lucky to have a role in these processes, by way of making mounts for objects and interactives, and assisting with programs that advocate the integration of indigenous expression into everyday life. This month, on First Friday, FCM&DSC hosted the Northern Cree singers, originating from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation of northern Alberta.  It too was a transforming experience.  What the performance lacked in lighting was more than made up for in sound, and I think perhaps the sound was more powerfully expressed because of it.  In only three songs, I was deeply moved. Nearly to tears in fact.  After the first song, a statement was given about how the public receives the music of the Northern Cree. While many have never heard it, it is somehow familiar, and this deepNorthern Cree familiarity is the power that unites humanity. The next day I was lucky enough to see Northern Cree (who performed three times) and many others perform at the 27th Annual Pow-Wow at Colorado State University. This performance came just after I witnessed Kevin Locke’s hoop dance and flute songs at Laurel Elementary. As I reflect on the emotions that overcame me at both performances, above all I feel proud to be a part of an institution that advocates indigenous culture. While November may be the only sanctioned month in which to raise awareness of First Peoples, it is of course by no means the only month to do so.  Even as museums spearhead this cultural campaign, it is critical to engage within them to ensure that issues of cultural representation are part of a broad public dialogue.  What took the Exhibit Museum nearly fifty years to realize, and then publicly address, is an excellent example of how public engagement effects change in museums, and therefore the public at large. I would like to welcome the public to meet this challenge and opportunity as the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center continues to develop exhibits and programs that stem from the advocacy of indigenous expression as one of the core values of the institution.  Participate in museum programs and cultural centers, go to Pow-Wows, and celebrate the opportunity to be a part of something beautiful, enriching, and powerful.

For more information on “Native American Dioramas in Transition,” go to

For the Director’s comment, got to

To contribute to a discussion on the exhibit, go to

Northern Cree Singers

Kevin Locke

Update: Urban Wildlife Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

A few weeks ago we wrote about our new prototype project, the Urban Wildlife Photography Challenge. We wanted to create an exhibit where the content (in this case, photos) came from the community, and where visitors could interact with the content and add their experiences, too. Working with Maria Mortati from Gyroscope, Inc. (the wonderful crew who’s helping us design the exhibit master plan for the new Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center), we came up with the idea to create what we’re calling the Urban Wildlife Photography Challenge. The exhibit opened on October 17th.

Using Flickr as our “home base,” we asked the community to send us photos of wild animals or plants in urban settings here in northern Colorado. We received 120 submissions from Fort Collins, Estes Park, and Timnath — photos of everything from snapping turtles (who knew we had snapping turtles in Fort Collins?) to butterflies, and of course the ever-popular elk on the golf course in Estes Park (my personal favorite).

Our fantastic exhibit designer Cory Gundlach came up with a clip rail system where the printed photos from Flickr could be displayed on the wall in the prototype exhibit area (see photos below). And this is where the fun really gets going: beyond just looking at and admiring these great photos, visitors can rearrange them on the wall, add Post-It note comments and tags to the photos, and add their own content by drawing a picture of an urban wildlife encounter they’ve had, or writing a “field note” about it.

One of the most important pieces of information we want to capture from each of these contributions is where it happened. We asked that photos submitted through Flickr be “geotagged,” and that drawings and field notes left by visitors to the exhibit also include a location. Each photo, field note, and drawing has a number assigned to it, and a corresponding number is placed on the large maps on the back wall of the exhibit. The effect is really cool — we’re really starting to see clusters of activity, and not surprisingly, those clusters are popping up in a lot of Fort Collins’ wonderful urban natural areas.

There are a lot of things about this exhibit that we’re really excited about — and I think the biggest one is that every day, it’s different. We’ll be adding new photos as we get them, and every day we’re seeing new drawings and field notes that visitors have contributed. It seems like people are really digging it. People have been a little shy about actually rearranging the pictures, but hopefully that will get going soon as well. Or I may just go arrange everything by color, as I’ve been so tempted to do!

An exhibit built by the community, and curated by the community — we’re loving it. Come be a part of it too. You can upload your urban wildlife photos to our Urban Wildlife Photography Challenge Flickr group, or come to the Museum and draw a picture, write a field note, and interact with the photos already on display. It’s your exhibit — go for it!

The Urban Wildlife exhibit, with photos on the left wall and maps on the back wall

The Urban Wildlife exhibit, with photos on the left wall and maps on the back wall

The clip rail system

The clip rail system

Photos, field notes, and drawings with map numbers

Photos, field notes, and drawings with map numbers

The Fort Collins map

The Fort Collins map

A visitor-contributed drawing

A visitor-contributed drawing

Field notes

Field notes

Photo with a Post-It tag

Photo with a Post-It tag

From the Archive: Urban wildlife

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive

How about a little historical inspiration for the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center’s Urban Wildlife Photo Challenge? Fort Collins residents have been photographing the wild creatures that share our environment for years.

In this photo from 1992, a family of geese crosses Mountain Avenue at the entrance to City Park.

geese crossing road

Raccoons peer out of this sewer grate at the corner of Magnolia and Gordon Streets. This photo appeared in a 1992 issue of the Fort Collins Triangle Review newspaper.


Max Hancock is having an up-close and personal visit with some chipmunks at the Deer Ridge Chalet in Estes Park in 1934.


If you’re feeling inspired to participate in our Urban Wildlife Challenge, don’t hold back! You can read more about the project here, or take a look at what other people have contributed to the project in our Flickr Urban Wildlife Challenge group. Join in!

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

“A place is a story happening many times”

by Brent Carmack, Assistant Director, and Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

One goal of every museum is to provide opportunities for visitors to make connections between what they see and learn at the museum with their own personal stories. A new opportunity to make those connections at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center went up a few months ago in conjunction with the opening of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area.

One of the most impressive things about Soapstone is simply the vast landscape that overwhelms you when you visit that place. To know that people have lived and thrived on that beautiful, harsh, sometimes unforgiving landscape for over 12,000 years can be humbling and inspiring. For the people who lived there, that landscape was a part of their identities. For most folks, their own personal landscape helps define who they are and how they view the world.

At the Museum we give people a chance to learn more about the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and its history, but we are also interested in learning about our visitors’ own stories. We posed a thought and a question to our visitors and gave them the opportunity to tell us a little about themselves.

“A place is a story happening many times.”  What place tells your story, and why?

This simple question has generated tons of responses, some funny, some sad, some whimsical, others simple. Responses come from all ages and several languages. Each response shares a little something of themselves, a gift to others who might read their story. Each response is an opportunity for further connection with the Museum and a chance for a little reflective thought—all goals of any museum experience.

Visitor's responses to the question, What place tells your story, and why?

Visitor's responses to the question, What place tells your story, and why?

We’ve collected some of our favorite responses and put them together in an interactive VoiceThread slideshow. Take a look at what some of our visitors have shared with us. The slideshow will advance automatically, or you can use the large arrow buttons in the lower corners to move forward and backward at your own pace.

We would love to hear from you, too — you can participate in this project even if you can’t come to the Museum. Here’s how:

  1. You can add your comment to any of the messages in the slideshow by clicking the “Comment” button at the lower edge of the slideshow frame. You’ll see that a couple of us have posted some comments ourselves. You can type your comment, or record a spoken comment and upload it to the slideshow. You’ll need to register for a VoiceThread account to do this, but it’s easy (really! Just your name, email address, and password) and free (bonus!).
  2. The very last slide in the show is where you can add your own story of place. Again, you can type in your comment or record it and upload it.

Or — you don’t have to respond at all, just pause for a moment and ponder the meaning of place to you.

(But we’d be delighted if you did respond!)

Moon memories

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

July 20th, 1969 —

I remember sitting on the brightly-striped multi-colored carpet (it was the Sixties, after all) of our family room, with my brother Mark, my Mom and Dad, as we watched the ghostly black and white images of the first Moon landing. When we heard the words “Tranquility Base here — the Eagle has landed,” I looked over at my Mom, sitting in her favorite chair, and saw tears streaming down her face. I was only eight years old — mostly I couldn’t begin to figure out how we could see TV pictures from the Moon, since clearly there weren’t any TV stations up there — but remembering that moment, shared with my family, brings tears to my eyes now, forty years later.

Okay, if you’re like me, you can’t even believe that it’s been 40 years. To celebrate the anniversary, the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center is hosting “To the Moon and Back,” an exhibit of NASA artifacts, opening Saturday, July 25th and running through August 29th. The day the exhibit opens will be full of hands-on space activities, live video broadcasts from Space Center Houston, and opportunities for those of us who were “there” those 40 years ago to share our memories of the event. Not quite that long in the tooth? Then we hope you’ll share your visions and hopes for what space travel can be in the future.

But if you can’t be here at the Museum to share your memories on July 25th, you can share them through this blog. Just click the “Comment” link up at the top of this post and tell your story (and read other people’s stories). Again, if you weren’t there in ’69, you can describe your vision of space travel in the future — and we’d love to hear from kids, too! In return for sharing your story, we’d like to offer you a buy-one-get-one-free admission for you and a friend to come see “To the Moon and Back” — to celebrate — to remember — to dream — to wonder.

nasa banner

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.

Color my world

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

We’ve got a LOT of behind-the-scenes work going on right now, as we prepare for Discovery Science Center’s move into the Fort Collins Museum building. DSC’s last day in their current location is this Saturday, May 30th (so get over there, like, NOW if you want to have one last look!). Three weeks ago we dismantled the “Poor of Me, Good of Dog” exhibit in the gallery and Exhibit Designer Cory Gundlach began transforming that space into what will become the home of many of DSC’s most-loved hands-on interactive science exhibits. It’s a lot of work, to say the least, and very exciting to see everything taking shape.

The walls are up and prepped, and this week we’re all pitching in to prime and paint. Yes, Directors, Curators, and everything, turned loose with rollers, ladders, and drop cloths. It’s mayhem, but so far the paint is mostly going on the walls, and not too much on each other …. Plan to come check everything out on June 30th, when we unveil science and history under one roof!

Wonderful work-study Ashley tackles the blue wall

Wonderful work-study Ashley tackles the blue wall

Curator Katie demonstrates that it's all in the wrist

Curator Katie demonstrates that it's all in the wrist (and all on her pants)

Soon to be our fantastic new exhibit space

Soon to be our fantastic new exhibit space

Visualize exciting science exhibits!

Visualize exciting science exhibits!

March 2023

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