Moving 10 million documents, 800,000 photographs, and 250,000 artifacts an entire city block is a tricky task. And it’s exactly what the Colorado History Museum was forced to do after Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 206 in 2008. The museum was demolished to make room for the expansion of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center. The upside? The bill also included funding for a new museum site.
The board of directors viewed the displacement as an opportunity to reinvent the museum and hired chief operating officer Kathryn Hill—who has helped develop cultural institutions like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.—to rethink the facility. Hill envisioned exhibits that were visceral, not just intellectual. “If we can make people laugh and tug on their heartstrings a bit,” Hill says, “we’re more relevant.”
The pretentious-sounding Colorado Historical Society name was ditched in favor of History Colorado, and high-tech, interactive exhibits were designed to fill the 200,000-square-foot center, which opens April 28. The result is a museum Hill believes locals will visit more than just once. There’s a 40-by-60-foot in-floor interactive map of Colorado with videos, a mining exhibit where you can attempt to set off a stick of dynamite, and a virtual ski-jumping station that emulates soaring off Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill. Two additional phases of the nearly $111 million museum, with exhibits highlighting the state’s landscapes, Colorado myth and lore, and more, will be completed by 2014. historycolorado.org