I’ve always lived in the west with the exception of a short year spent in the Midwest during college. I love the west. I love our “can do” attitude and laid back manners, and I thought I knew a lot about this region of our country.
I am well-versed in cowboy legends and Native American lore. Our mining history is something I’ve learned a lot about since moving to Colorado in 2000, and I have a good grasp on western pioneering history.
However, it wasn’t until last year when Ken Burn’s documentary, “The Dust Bowl“ came to PBS that I realized this major part of US history wasn’t just a Midwest story, and in fact, Baca County, Colorado was considered the epicenter of the Dust Bowl.
I am not the only one who was unaware of the Dust Bowl’s impact on Colorado, and that’s why Living West at History Colorado takes an in depth look at this man made natural disaster that bankrupted and destroyed so many lives.
History Colorado opened in April 2012, and the state-of-the-art building and the museum’s unique storytelling approach to history has been attracting a new type of history buff to Denver. The 40,000 square feet of exhibit space is located in a 200,000 square foot, eco-friendly building in the Denver Culture Arc, an area that includes the Denver Art Museum, Denver Public Library and more.
Last week I got a sneak peek at Living West, the newest phase to open at History Colorado. It officially opened to the public on Saturday. In addition to the Dust Bowl exhibit, there’s a section about Mesa Verde and the Anasazi people who lived in southwest Colorado in the 10th Century. It includes a very cool replica of Balcony House, a place I’ve visited in person.
There’s also a section on modern day Colorado in the new Living West wing of History Colorado. Today we are writing the next chapter in Colorado’s history, the Mountain Story, and I like this story a lot, however, this section asks visitors to examine whether we are being good stewards of the Rocky Mountains. Are there already some negative indicators of human impact on the Rockies, and if so, how do we avoid repeating the environmental mistakes of the past?
I really like Living West because it is a conduit for conversation. There’s a large display that talks about Colorado water issues, and a board where visitors are invited to post a sticky note with the answer to the question: “Who should get Colorado’s water?”
My husband wrote, “Coloradans!” on his post-it note.
Living West not only tells the story of our state’s past, but it asks us to learn from it, and to use those lessons to create a better tomorrow for Colorado. It isn’t preachy, but it does invite thought, and in my opinion, thought is always a good thing.
Don’t miss the fun quiz at the end where you can play against your friends and family and learn who was paying attention as you walked through Living West.
To learn more about History Colorado, and what the museum has to offer, including numerous programs and entertainment throughout the year, go to HistoryColorado.org.