Mayor Speer (yes, like the street) died during the pandemic of 1918, quite possibly of the Spanish flu. The Auraria campus area was once the home of a thriving Latino community who were pushed out by city officials. Highland was once it’s own city. Mayor Peña wore truly terrible looking eyeglasses larger than some LoHi apartments (though, in his defense, it was the 1980s). These are just a few of the things you can explore at History Colorado’s new exhibit “Building Denver: Visions of the Capital City.”
The exhibit, which you can get through in as little as half an hour or easily spend three times that amount of time exploring, starts with the familiar history many longtime residents are familiar with, but many aspects are presented in ways most of us weren’t taught in our elementary school history of Colorado classes. The exhibit doesn’t shy away from some of Denver’s less than stellar history, such as the exhibits on redlining, displacement at Auraria, and the Cheyenne and Ute people who lived in the area before Europeans came. At the same time, it also doesn’t present all growth as bad: the aforementioned section on Peña’s “imagine a great city” shows how Denver improved in many ways from redevelopment.
Instead of a heavy-handed approach, the exhibit invites museum-goers to be active participants in Denver’s future by learning about issues — including recent changes in the city. Sections on I-70 expansion, including a collector’s item “Ditch the Ditch” poster, and the renaming of the community formerly known as Stapleton could as easily be in the newspaper as they are a museum, but their inclusion really highlights how the city is continuing to change and the importance of engagement, regardless of your views on development and growth.
One unique offering is the chance to sit and listen to local poets. Long gone are the days of having to share questionable headsets too (an especially nice feature as the pandemic winds down). The audio is crystal clear when you are sitting in the designated spot but, through the wonders of technology, can’t be heard elsewhere, leaving other viewers in peace.
One of the final areas includes a mesmerizing wall-sized map that shows all zoning in the city…and manages to present it in an aesthetically pleasing way that looks…well different and more interesting from any other zoning map. Just after that is a chance to leave your own notes about the city on an interactive board. Denver is your city. Stop by and learn the history and take part in shaping the future. We can continue to envision a great city together.
For more information, including hours and ticket prices, please visit https://www.historycolorado.org or call (303) 866-2394.