Eye of the Archive: Seeking Direction
It’s Mayuary 2019 in Aspen and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been lost. Don’t get me wrong, the winter season was spectacular: more snow than most could remember, a fascinating exhibit in the museum next door, and fabulous community celebrations for Bauhaus 100: Aspen. However now that winter 2018/2019 is a distant memory, I’ve found myself wallowing in off-season blues, especially since it won’t.stop.snowing. Happily, a donation came to my shelves recently that’s broken my melancholy mood. It’s a set of utterly amazing mining claim maps with an exciting provenance and their well-timed arrival have offered me direction!
The maps were generously donated to Aspen Historical Society by William (Bill) Lipsey, an architect in town with deep roots in the Aspen area. The maps’ journey to AHS ends with Bill, however it started with a larger-than-life late Aspenite named Ed Smart. I’ll borrow from an article in The Aspen Times at the time of Ed’s death to describe him: “He flew a plane for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the D-Day invasion. He fought the government and other landowners over mining claims in Colorado. He was a friend of actor John Wayne and writer Rob MacGregor (author of the six original Indiana Jones novels), and is said to have provided story fodder to MacGregor, best-selling writer of westerns Louis L’Amour and others.” Bill Lipsey recalls “I first met him in the early ’70’s when my architectural studio was near his in the Elk’s Building. He was definitely a character, always chasing the dream of finding precious metals in CO, UT, & later in life, Mexico.“
Smart was born in Chicago and throughout his life found much success (and some failure) in prospecting, mining claims, land deals, and other enterprises. Through acquiring his extensive holdings in the Aspen area, Ed amassed an impressive collection of maps, geological surveys, and historical records and photographs before he passed away in May of 2012. Much of his collection was then put up for sale at an estate auction on the Front Range, where Bill Lipsey purchased “most of what was available.” To help preserve the area’s rich history, Bill donated 98 maps to Aspen Historical Society for the benefit of the public.
After seeing the maps, all I can say is “THANK YOU BILL!” It is a treat to hold artifacts that not only describe the mining era, but that also represent the foresight and legacy of such a character as Ed Smart. Most importantly though, the maps reminded me of my purpose…as one of the largest public archives in the region, it is my privilege to preserve the stories that make this area special. My direction is once again clear – as a public resource, I am at your service to keep treasures safe and sound for all to see.
Until next time, yours most gratefully,
The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tidbits, news around town, and more.