Eye of the Archive: Art Inspired by History

I made a very talented and sweet friend recently, local artist Lara Whitley, when she came to visit me, the Archive Building, at Aspen Historical Society. Okay, maybe she wasn’t visiting just me… Lara came to Aspen Historical Society’s public archive to research and find inspiration for her latest art project, which was going to feature glass shards she found in the dirt near her home. Bright and shiny things often capture my attention too, so we hit it off right off the bat. I love new friends! As Lara told her story, I knew we’d get along famously:

While walking her dog through a meadow in her neighborhood, pieces of glass embedded in the soil piqued Lara’s curiosity and she began to wonder about the history of the land near her home and the origins of the discarded glass. Lara turned to me (okay, okay, us) here Aspen Historical Society for help. Together with the wonderful archivists team Lisa Hancock and Anna Scott, Lara embarked on a guided research effort to understand the histories of the people who may have lived or worked in the area and the land itself. The lovely ladies of the archive looked at photos, maps, BLM records, land patents, and other historical information to determine the previous owners of the land and hypothesize about the discards that Lara had discovered.

My new BFF says the research and resulting discoveries framed her artistic process. “I love the way this project connects me to the land and the stories of the locals who preceded us,” Lara said. “Lisa and Anna helped me make that connection, and ‘Homecoming’ wouldn’t be the same without their invaluable assistance and enthusiasm.”

The resulting piece, which Lara called “Homecoming” features the glass bits strung together, like birds on a wire, in a 3-D outline in the shape of a house. It’s…it’s just WOW. That BFF of mine is creative! Lara describes it as a “site-specific installation of foraged glass,” saying the piece “digs into both the history of our community and the zeitgeist of our time: throwaway culture.”

   

The piece is on display just down the road in at the Launchpad in Carbondale in the month of September, so you can see it for yourself!

With admiration for my new friend and her creative use of my archives,
A.B.
(Archive Building)

Eye of the Archives: Quali-tea Artifacts

Now that my building renovation is complete, I’m working on being less self-centered….gulp. Moving forward, I’m going to turn my attention away from myself…gulp…and to items in the very impressive collection that I house. Did you know that the Aspen Historical Society (AHS) operates the largest public archive of images, historical papers, maps, and artifact collections in the region? That’s the reason I feel (am) so important! A big portion of those artifacts are kept safe in my vault, when they’re not out on display that is. Which is always hard for me. I get separation anxiety and miss them terribly. Maybe I should work on being less selfish too… But in the interest of turning over a new leaf and spreading the love, let me tell you about a few brand new artifacts that I’m especially exited about right now.

AHS recently accessioned an antique Gorham repoussé coffee and tea service, a.k.a. a swanky Victorian-era silver tea set, accompanied by an even older silver tray. The new artifacts are so fancy in fact, that they’re going to display them next door in the Wheeler Stallard Museum! I have to say I’m a little jealous of my Victorian neighbor, who will get to admire the beautifully crafted tea set night and day.

The tea and coffee service was made in Providence, Rhode Island in 1887. It’s the whole kit and caboodle: sugar dish, creamer, coffee pot, tea pot, and even a “waste bowl.” The ornate Butler’s Tray is from what the appraisers call a “very desirable period, George III.” Oooooh, classy.

The artifacts were owned by a notable Colorado family, Colonel & Mrs. Channing Meek and their monogram is imprinted on the tea set pieces. Col. Meek was president of Colorado Yule and Marble Company, which provided local marble for many Colorado and U.S. monuments – cool! He lived in Redstone with his wife but died tragically in a hair-raising train accident in 1912. The items were purchased together from a Redstone antique store by Patricia Flug in 1985. Pat recently donated the set to AHS in consideration of the original owner’s connection to the Roaring Fork Valley. Thanks Pat!

Stop in at the Wheeler/Stallard museum soon to view these quali-tea artifacts for yourself. If you want to while you’re here, you can come say hi to me in my fancy new digs next door…

Best,
A.B.
(Archives Building)

Eye of the Archives: Just Call Me A.B. 2.0

Apologies for my absence, I’ve been completely preoccupied basking in the glory of my new and improved self! I’m tempted to bust open the packaging of the 1983 Magnum P.I. whistle from the Aspen Institute time-capsule just so that I can catcall myself… Or maybe I’ll use the 1895 fireman’s trumpet to shout my excitement from the rooftops!

The fan-fair around my completion has been fabulous and really kept me busy. I thought I was popular when a crowd of 75 turned out for my groundbreaking last year, but when over 400 community members showed up for the July party to celebrate my opening I was FLOORED (and they happened to love my new floors, too). There was music, snacks and drinks, and even a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of my new digs. Guests toured “the Vault,” my underground fortress where thousands and thousands of artifacts, documents, photographs and objects are stored, and were as excited about the security features and improved storage as I am.

Since the party, I’ve hosted several archive appointments, visitors, supporters, and even the press! I feel quite famous. And it’s summer in Aspen so… did I already say busy? I don’t mind though, I’m shiny and new and I’m proud.

Speaking of proud, I’m beaming with pride and gratitude at the hard work and dedication of the Aspen Historical Society staff, the contractors, and you! The generous support of community members like you helped me modernize and beautify. Besides my crowning-glory vault, I’m most excited about the energy-efficient features and the community gallery space. If you ask me, the “Aspen’s Storied History” opening display in the new gallery perfectly encapsulates the spirit of this area. Its community-curated stories are an inspiring reflection of the many treasures I hold within my walls. When octogenarian Ellie Spence came for the opening celebrations and stood next to her picture as the first Winterskol Queen in 1951 I just about sobbed. My cup runeth over!

Whew, it’s been quite a whirlwind of a spring and summer and I have to say, I’m looking forward to the quieter days of fall. But as I know best, history keeps happening so I’ll never rest!

I hope you’ll come visit me soon – you can tour my re-stocked archives during one of my free tours, tomorrow August 9 and again on September 13. Or book an archive appointment to find out the answers to your burning history questions. I have so much to show off after this renovation but the AHS collection is, and always has been, the real star.

With gratitude,
A.B.
(Archives Building)

   

   

Eye of the Archives: Filling Up

I’m feeling almost like a new Archives Building! Over the past few weeks, the Historical Society has been moving back in–setting up offices and the new community gallery space. Things got really exciting this week when our friends at Olde Towne Moving & Storage brought all the artifacts, maps, documents, photos and archival material back from temporary storage. Do you have any idea how much muscle it takes to move more than a century? The guys at Olde Towne really came through.

Please join me for my grand re-opening celebration on July 14! Stay tuned for details. You can also visit my re-stocked archives during one of my free tours on August 9 and September 13. I can’t wait until you see me!

Best,
A.B.
Archive Building

Eye of the Archives: Almost There

Well, well, well, look who’s all dressed up with no place to go? Me! I am feeling pretty luxurious these days, and it’s not just because the Oscars were on Sunday night. I have been decked out with the most lovely accessories: fine carpeting, pretty dark blue walls and shiny bathroom tile. All the finishing touches are happening, and I must plug the contractors (G.F. Woods) because it’s all on time. But, like I said though, no place to go. While the construction is nearing an end, we have to wait for the building to settle a bit before we transport all of the archives back into it. Then the staff can move into their new offices and we’ll make sure everything is running smoothly before we invite the public in to see it all.

Our grand opening will be July 14, so mark your calendars. That’s when we’ll open up for a full day of tours, celebrations and snacks. In addition, that pretty blue wall will feature a photo exhibition featuring images selected by community members. It’s all very exciting, and I’ll be in preparation mode until I make my big debut to all of you. Thanks for hanging in there; it will be worth it.

Best,
A.B.
Archive Building

      

      

Eye of the Archives: Wood Floors and More

I’m giddy with how good I look! Things are really taking shape, in all the right corners, here at the archive building. First, cabinetry has been installed on all three levels. In the basement, SpaceSavers were put in (twice as many as there used to be) to efficiently store items, documents and artifacts, and this will be our nexus of storage and preservation. Type A people will appreciate the utter organization of it all. On the main level, sleek-looking cabinets  have been added throughout the archives room, so the Historical Society’s most-accessed documents and objects can now be within (safe) reach. On the third floor, additional sets of cabinets and drawers have been installed. And everything matches!

And while it’s easy to get excited about the things that hide other things (like cabinets), I’m most excited about my gorgeous new floors. Not only are they fashionable, but they’re functional — durable and easy to clean for all the community and children’s events we’ll have in the new gallery space. I think it’s the first time that I can say I’m excited for people to walk all over me.

Sincerely,
A.B.
(Archive Building)

Learn more about the renovation here. Find other updates here.

 

Eye of the Archives: Vaulted Up

I’m a three-level building. With my renovation, the main floor, aka my torso, will be the community and education space and that’s where most people will spend their time. My top floor, or head, is going to be office space. But sometimes I think what’s happening downstairs in my basement is the coolest. That’s where thousands and thousands of artifacts, objects and photographs will be safely stored. The goal is that people won’t really spend any time down there, sort of like a not-below-the-waist policy.

To make sure that everything is protected, the construction crew is adding technology to prevent against fire and flood. The space will the climate-controlled in order to maintain optimal levels for preservation. Things like wiring will be isolated so that there aren’t any ignition sources in the basement archive area. Essentially, it’s a vault — one that protects all of Aspen’s treasures.

Sincerely,
A.B.

(Archive Building)

Eye of the Archives: Buttoning Up

Brrrr. Does anyone else feel a draft in here? Recently my doors have been wide open and my walls exposed. During this extended summer called fall, it’s been pleasant but the recent temperature drop has me all sorts of happy for my new insulation. Recently the G.F. Woods construction guys have buttoned me up to make sure I’m ready for Colorado’s cold winters.

That means a couple of things. First, I got all new Pella windows. I don’t know much about them, but I hear they’re the best kind. Like they’re the windows the Queen of England would get if she was renovating her castle. Second, they put new siding on me and a thing called the VaproShield, which is a water-resistant, vapor-permeable insulated wall.  That sounds pretty cool, and by cool, I mean warm.

We’re trucking along on schedule just in time for the arrival of winter.

Sincerely,

A.B.
(Archives Building)

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Eye of the Archives: Building Walls

It’s election season and everyone is putting up walls, including the G.F. Woods Construction guys. But unlike the metaphorical walls going up around the country, mine are the good kind. And I don’t discriminate either, I like all types of walls! The wall with the cinderblocks is called a Concrete Masonry Unit wall — CMU for those in the biz, or “magic shield” to me. This particular shield is going up my basement, where all of the tens of thousands of artifacts, documents and images will be kept, and its job is to be a firewall. All of the precious stuff will go inside the concrete box, and that protective shield will keep everything safe in case of the worst, like a fire or flood. Basically, if I’m in “Star Wars,” this is my force field.

Sincerely,

A.B.
(Archives Building)

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Click here for more information on the campaign and the renovation process.