In November, History Colorado opened a new exhibit in a 3,700-square-foot, brand-new gallery space. Zoom In: The Centennial State in 100 Objects showcases 100 unique objects that have shaped Colorado, providing a history from early Paleoindians, who lived along the Front Range 13,000 years ago, to the 21st century, represented by the story of Boulder’s Crocs shoes.
To view the article with photos, please click here: Zoom In On Colorado’s History
Zoom In is presented by Colorado State University and explores the diverse history of Colorado’s people and places through material artifacts and stories that go with them. The exhibit shares stories that are well known—like that of Margaret “Molly” Brown—alongside others that are less familiar—like a hammer from Dearfield, an early 20th century African-American settlement.
Jason Hanson, the chief creative officer for the exhibit, said the process for putting it together was much faster than usual. It began late last summer, inspired by similar “100 objects” exhibits by the British Museum and the Smithsonian. “We know that there are people looking for that overview of Colorado history and we wanted to provide that,” said Hanson. “We thought this was a really good way to give you a place where you can come and get the big sweep of Colorado history in one spot.”
The exhibit will be a great fit for local fourth-graders, who study the history of Colorado, as it very intentionally aligns with state standards, said Hanson.
History Colorado’s collection contains over 15 million items, said Julie Peterson, the exhibit developer, so sifting through them to arrive at 100 was no small feat in such short time. “We wanted to pull some of the most striking and illuminating objects within our collections and give folks the chance to see them in a really impressive setting,” said Peterson.
“…a place where you can come and get the
big sweep of Colorado history…” — Jason Hanson
It was a team effort, with curator James Peterson making a list of some of his favorite objects in the collection, and then consulting with historians and other stakeholders across the state to shape the final product over months. Staff consulted closely with tribal representatives and consultants on all of the American Indian artifacts “We reached out to them to make sure that they seemed appropriate for display, that we were interpreting them correctly,” said Hanson.
The exhibit runs in chronological order, and as a visitor follows the path, themes of Colorado’s history of boom-and-bust cycles, resilience and violence emerge. Each object tells a story, from what Hanson calls “showstoppers,” like John Denver’s special edition Yamaha guitar, to Colorado astronaut Jack Swigert’s space suit, sweat-stained around the collar in testament to the nerve-wracking experience of space flight.
Visitors will be asked to ponder what they would add as the 101st object. “Everyone is part of this story,” said Hanson. “Not always the famous people that you’ve heard of. We’re all part of this ongoing story … The things in our lives will one day end up in exhibits like this.”