FCMoD at SXSW 2019

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Dome Theater Manager.

FCMoD at SXSW 2019

This March, thousands of creatives gathered in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW). While many are familiar with the SXSW music festival, this annual series of festivals and conferences is designed to celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Founded in 1987, SXSW features leaders in each of those areas to come and present about various topics and emerging trends.

This spring, I was invited to participate on a panel discussion hosted during the SXSW Interactive conference. The panel, titled “Do it in a Dome! The Planetarium as an Arts Medium“, was organized by Dani LeBlanc, director of the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science Boston. Along with Dani and myself, the panel included Monica Bolles, an artist developing experiences for dome environments, and James Wetzel, co-producer of adult programs at the Museum of Science Boston. Each of us had the opportunity to tell our stories of utilizing planetarium domes in new and innovative ways to engage with the arts. With most modern planetariums now operating with digital projections, the possibilities for what can be shown on the dome screen are no longer limited to stars and other celestial objects. This has enabled the creation of some truly impressive immersive art experiences.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston

At the Museum of Science Boston, Dani and James, along with the rest of their production team, have begun to program some very interesting events for adult audiences. Though some are surprised that a science museum would be hosting a live band or screening an immersive art piece, the team believes that in order to stay relevant to today’s audiences, science museum’s should be experimenting and broadening the horizons of what they can offer the community. Similarly to us here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD), one way they’ve found to engage with their local creative community is through hosting live music performances in the dome that utilize the space in new and unique ways. Hosting live music under the dome creates a completely different experience than you would get at a more traditional venue; the experience becomes about the interesting ways the dome is used to compliment the live performance. Another use of the planetarium Dani and James have explored is hosting drag performances. The shows started as a surprise pop-up performance after their “Lady Gaga Experience” show but has since become a mainstay on its own. The producers at the museum work alongside local drag show producer Ian Diver to create these unique immersive performances, and have received a lot of support and a great response from the local community and media.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston, Jonathan Beckley

At first glance it may seem strange that planetariums, historically used for educating the public on astronomical topics, are now branching out and offering new experiences like live music, drag shows, or immersive art performances. While the mission of planetariums is to communicate science and astronomy to the public is absolutely vital, many institutions are beginning to branch out. Through these unique events, organizations like Museum of Science Boston and FCMoD are finding new ways to attract audiences that wouldn’t normally consider the local museum a place for them. Using planetariums for arts not only expands what was previously thought possible in these spaces; it is also changing the ways in which people are interacting with them. As these new audiences are finding that these spaces are for them as well, they are then becoming not only audience members but co-creators.

Here at FCMoD, we hope to encourage future dome artists and creatives through our DomeLab program. DomeLab is a regular meetup that offers the opportunity for anyone to come to the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, learn how to create immersive experiences, and work with other creatives on projects to showcase there. This free program is open to anyone who wants to flex their creativity, whether they are a filmmaker, storyteller, musician, painter, photographer, or work with another medium; all are welcome. Come participate in creating the next generation of immersive experiences in the dome!

DomeLab meets every-other Tuesday at 7pm. For more information, follow us on Facebook or visit the museum’s event calendar.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Connie D.

Interview conducted by Laurel Drasner, Volunteer Coordinator.

Volunteer Spotlight: Connie D.

Position at FCMoD: Gallery Host & Museum Store Volunteer

When you started volunteering here: I started at FCMoD in January 2018.

Hobbies/Interests: I like to travel, read, volunteer and I love puppets!

Hometown: I’m from Pueblo, Colorado, but I’ve also lived in Greeley and Estes Park.

Current/previous occupation: I taught elementary school for most of my career, but I also worked at the Rocky Mountain National Park Conservancy for 11 years. I worked in the Gift Shop and was able to give puppet shows.

Favorite book: My favorite book is The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister. The book is about age and retirement and it inspired my recent move from Estes Park to Fort Collins and reignited my passion for volunteering.

Favorite vacation memory: My favorite vacation memory was when I spent 6 weeks in Africa with Earth Watch Volunteer Services to Scientists in ’95. We provided data to scientists by documenting what the elephants had been eating in the way of seeds and woody plants by going through their dung. Elephants do not assimilate their food well. We were also able to indicate how long the dung had been on the ground by documenting the insects that were on it. Very interesting!

One thing you want people to know about you: I also volunteer at the Demonstration Farm at Lee Martinez Park cleaning the chicken enclosures. I didn’t have any farm experience as a child, but it’s something that I’ve become interested in as an adult. I even put my last kid through college by milking cows on the weekend!

Favorite thing about volunteering at FCMoD: The staff is superb, and I also love getting to meet all the wonderful kids and adults who come to the museum!

Thank you for all you do for FCMoD, Connie!

Interested in volunteering? Learn more here.

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Staging a Successful Science Fair

Post written by Beth Unger, School Programs Coordinator.

Staging a Successful Science Fair

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery has a long-standing tradition of hosting the Poudre School District Science & Engineering Fair and this year, we’ve implemented a few changes that we hope will make this year’s fair the best yet! Follow our logic through the scientific method to learn more about the fair:

Background Information:

  • In April of 1994, the former Discovery Center Science Museum hosted the first Poudre R-1 Elementary School District Science Fair.
  • From 1994 to 2009, the District Science Fair was hosted at the former museum.
  • After the 2009 Science Fair, the Fair was relocated to local junior high schools (Boltz & Lesher) as Fort Collins Museum of Discovery began its transition to the new building where we are found today off Mason Court.
  • The District Science Fair has continued to grow each year to include more students from more schools.

Testable Question:

  1. Can we increase community engagement with the district fair by changing the location of the fair?

Hypothesis:

  1. If we move the district fair to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the projects will be viewed by more community members and inspire scientific curiosity and innovation in our visitors.

Materials:

  • 50 excellent student projects that have received top awards at their school fairs
  • 20 outstanding classroom teachers that coordinate their school fairs
  • 15 distinguished community judges (including FCMoD board members, graduate students from CSU, and community members from various other science fields)
  • 5 volunteers to help everything run smoothly
  • Support from our partners in the PSD Science Curriculum Department
  • A public space to display the creative and innovative projects that is free and accessible to our community
  • Many community members to view and be inspired by the projects

Procedure:

  1. Fourth and Fifth grade students participate in their school science fairs. Those who receive top awards at their school fairs advance to the district science fair.
  2. Students bring their projects to FCMoD to display in the Learning Labs at the museum.
  3. Judges preview student projects and make preliminary evaluations.
  4. Judges conduct one-on-one interviews with the students to learn more about their project and methods.
  5. All judges compare their notes on student projects, re-visit the most creative and innovative projects and collectively nominate the projects to receive awards.
  6. Students, family and friends, as well as museum visitors are invited to the awards ceremony to celebrate the achievements of all the science fair participants and to see who takes home the “Best in Show” prize!

Results/Conclusions: Come to the fair this year to find out for yourself!

If you’re interested to see how this project (and all the student projects!) turn out, join us for this year’s District Science & Engineering Fair! Student projects will be open for public viewing on Saturday, March 30, from 1:30-2:30 pm followed by the Awards Ceremony. After the conclusion of the fair, the public is welcome to view the Science Fair projects between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm free of charge on Sunday, March 31, in the Learning Labs.

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Geek Week: Gaming in in the Dome

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Digital Dome Manager.

Gaming in the Dome

Video games have certainly come a long way since they first began to become popular in the early 1970s. The first truly successful home video game was of course Pong, released in 1975 by Atari. The game consisted simply of a square icon that bounced from side to side on the screen as opponents blocked it from going off-screen with cursors that moved up and down to block it’s path and bounce it back to the other opponent. Controlled simply by a couple of knobs that each opponent would turn to move their cursor up and down, the game was simple yet extremely fun and engaging, especially as it sped up as the game progressed.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: mbiebusch

These days video games are not only much more advanced from a technical standpoint but also take into consideration things like narrative storytelling, the soundtrack and audio experience, multi-player experiences, and many more factors that create more and more immersive gaming experiences. With the rise in virtual reality these experiences are taking gaming to a whole new level by not only showing the players a different world, but seemingly transporting them there in person to experience all that a game and it’s virtual world has to offer. Probably the most popular VR game right now hearkens back to the days of Pong with it’s simplistic, yet completely addicting, game-play. This game of course is Beat Saber, the game where you are armed with two lightsabers slashing objects coming towards you all set to fun, dance-inducing music. Also, by incorporating whole-body motions like ducking under obstacles, this game fully immerses the player, and so many people get into it that it almost becomes a fitness workout. Games like this and other VR experiences create a powerful compelling alternate reality by overcoming your field of vision so that you can believe you’ve been transported to that reality instead of just viewing it on a screen.

Photo courtesy of Youtube: Ruirize

Here at the museum we have the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, a 360° Dome theater that is a very similar experience to virtual reality, except for an entire audience! The Dome’s screen wraps all around and above the audience whose seats are reclined to be able to comfortably look up to take in the virtual worlds presented on it. Equipped with state-of-the-art high resolution digital projectors, the Dome can transport audiences anywhere the imagination can take you from deep under the ocean, to the farthest known reaches of the universe, to completely fictional worlds. There is truly no limit to where you can go in the Dome. One common remark we get after people experience the dome for the first time is “wouldn’t it be cool to play games on this!?” Well, you can!

During Geek Week, a week of programs that we hold here at FCMoD each year over Spring Break, you’ll be able to experience immersive gaming, and more, right here in the Dome! On Tuesday, March 19th from 10am – 3pm we’ll have a number of games available that have been created just for the Dome so that you can stop by, grab a controller and experience the future of immersive gaming in the Dome for yourself. Some of these are retro-inspired games like Space Invasion (inspired of course by the classic arcade game Space Invaders), but remade for the impressive 39-foot diameter dome screen. Others, like one game titled Xur, uses common game mechanics but with a 360° twist to make it even more challenging and fun to play on the Dome. Be sure to join us for this totally unique gaming experience, as well as the other days of Geek Week where we’ll be flying around the universe, holding Harry Potter Divination classes, and learning about the astronomical origins of superheroes.

Photo Courtesy of Evans & Sutherland

 

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Gamers Save the World on March 19.

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Geek Week: A Magical Gathering for Fantasy Fanatics

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Assistant.

A Magical Gathering for Fantasy Fanatics

I cannot wait to meet all the witches, wizards, and muggles alike who will attend this year’s Fantasy Fanatics day at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s wondrous Geek Week. We Hufflepuffs certainly do appreciate a friendly gathering. And with so many magical things to do, it’s a wonder where I will start this year!

I may just begin in my favorite section of the museum, with the animals! In my years at Hogwarts, we were permitted the usual creatures – cats, rats, and owls. There was always the occasional dragon or phoenix on school grounds as well. But what excites me most about this year’s Fantasty Fanatics day are the real Fantastic Beasts. I may have heard of or even seen some of these creatures before, but I never had the opportunity to see them so up close. And I will finally have the chance to ask all my questions to some expert beast handlers as well.

I even heard rumors there may be dragons at this year’s Geek Week. Not to worry, I am certain they will be well contained. They so rarely escape, and besides, they are miniature this year! Those fire-breathing creatures are so small you can even take one home with you. I am just so excited to see all those fascinating creatures!

Of course I won’t be ready for the day without my wizarding attire first. A quick stop at the Costume-Making and Photo Booth station should prepare me with the proper Hufflepuff attire. I simply must wear my yellow tie so everyone knows my House. There will be costumes for simply everyone – even the muggles can become magical with a little costuming and a lot of imagination!

Once I have my clothing in order, I suppose I will need to make my wand next. Each wand is unique to its wizard, you know! Once I have my wand, it would be in good form to learn some powerful spells to perform. I may need them for protection against the dragons! It will be wonderful to learn alongside so many upcoming witches and wizards, too. I even hear they may allow muggles to try out some spells!

Next, I will certainly need to make my way to Divination Class. Divination is spectacular, and it connects with the muggle science of astronomy! Muggles have come so far in their understanding of the planets and stars. We can learn a lot from their scientists and astronomers.

Speaking of science, I hear they may be concocting a special class on the Science of Mermaids at this year’s Geek Week, too. I try to avoid those aquatic humanoids on school grounds – they can be quite unpleasant when provoked. The Mermaids at Geek Week seem to be of another sort entirely, though! I’ll be quite pleased to see what they have planned for this unique learning experience!

With such a marvelous assortment of exciting, educational activities, muggles and wizards alike will rejoice! Where will you start this year?

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Fantasy Fanatics on March 21.

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Geek Week: Superhero Showdown

Post written by Jason Wolvington, Associate Director.

Superhero Showdown

I remember the day clearly.

I was in 4th grade, and home sick for the day. You know how those days went: simultaneously happy to not be in school, but disappointed you couldn’t enjoy it because you were feeling so bad. Stuck in your room, there wasn’t much to do but rest, assuming you hadn’t faked it for the day (I didn’t, I promise). In my case, resting meant curling up in my bed reading tattered old Uncle Scrooge comic books I had accumulated over the years. When Dad came home from work later that night, he handed me fresh a stack of comics he picked up at the local 7-11 to help me feel better. As I flipped through the books, I stopped on a random issue of Spider-Man that was mixed into the stack. What happened next was pure magic.

What’s this?! I don’t read these kind of comics!  *scoffs at idea of superhero comics* Where’s my Disney?!  *stares in disgust at the Spider-man cover*   Where’s my Rocky and Bullwinkle?! *begins to flip through the unfamiliar pages of Spider-Man* Where’s my…..?!  *sentence cuts off as eyes grow wider by the amazingness of this new superhero world* And that’s how my love for superhero comics began. I’m still an avid comic book collector to this day, no doubt using my super-human museum skills to help organize, preserve, and protect my collection. Sure, I love the monthly adventures of my favorite superheroes, but I think deep down it’s much more about what comic books do overall: as a kid, they inspire awe and ignite your creativity and imagination (remind me to tell you one day about the “Atomic Chicken” comic I created in junior high). And as an adult, they’re an escape from pressures of the world around us, and a platform for powerful storytelling on a variety of subjects.

All that said – and unsurprising to you, I’m sure – I’m a total geek. And let’s face it: I know there’s more out there. You know who you are.

You who love to watch Star Wars every single time it’s on TV. Who catches up on the latest Game of Thrones theories, and won’t realize you missed dinner because you were so immersed in your latest video game adventure.

At FCMoD, we love geeks. And we love nerds, too. You’re the ones who keep life interesting, never stop exploring, and are always looking for ways to make the world a better place.

Welcome to #GeekWeek, friends…hope you enjoy your stay.

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for details on the festivities!

Join us for Geek Week: Superhero Showdown on March 22.

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Geek Week: Sci-Fi Strikes Back

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Assistant.

Sci-Fi Strikes Back

On the surface, science and fiction may appear to be complete opposites. Fiction tells us stories about people, places, and things that are imaginary. Science gives us knowledge about our world through observation and experimentation. Yet, the two are not as dissimilar as they seem. In fact, science fiction, the genre dedicated to imagining the world through the science and technology of the future, has helped many scientists with their work in the real world!

Take, for example, the inventor of the submarine. American scientist Simon Lake was inspired by the undersea adventures in the science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne! And Lake is not alone in drawing inspiration from science fiction: the inventor of the cell phone, Martin Cooper, gives credit to the communication devices he saw on the show Star Trek.

In our modern world, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has garnered a lot of attention, and for good reason. In the 21st century, many jobs will lie in the STEM fields. Yet without the arts, even the most advanced scientists can lack the imagination necessary to developing creative solutions.  A large part of the engineering process is to imagine possible solutions to a problem. And when those solutions don’t work, it’s back to the drawing board to come up with new ideas.

Through a stretch of the imagination, sophisticated scientific advances can be made!

 

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Sci-Fi Strikes Back on March 20.

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Prominent Women in Fort Collins History

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant. 

Prominent Women in Fort Collins History

Every year we celebrate Women’s History Month in March by recognizing the contributions of women throughout history. This year for Women’s History Month, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is highlighting the accomplishments of seven prominent women in Fort Collins History, whose stories are preserved in the Archive here at the museum. Learn more about Clara Ray, Elizabeth Hickok Robbins Stone, Inga Allison, Jovita Vallecillo Lobato, Charlene Tresner, Leonore (Nora) Rice Miller, and Phyllis Rosabonheur Greene Mattingly.

Clara Ray (1899-1987)

Clara Ray served as a pediatric nurse from 1929 to 1972 at the Poudre Valley Memorial Hospital. In those early years at what was called the old Poor Farm, Clara stoked fires in the coal-burning stoves and cleaned rooms as well as caring for patients. In those days, the nursing “staff” worked essentially on duty 24/7.

If there was an emergency night surgery, one of them assisted; when a patient was critically ill, they took turns napping and tending the patient. Clara could always be found rocking a young child to sleep. Clara served many at the Hospital.

 

Elizabeth Hickok Robbins Stone (1801-1895)

Elizabeth Stone, born in Hartford, Connecticut, would travel a long way in her life to make her home in Fort Collins, Colorado. Elizabeth Stone became a local legend as our own cities very own Founding Mother. Auntie Stone was famous for her energy, and she acquired her nickname of “Auntie” from serving on the frontier with soldiers in the mess hall.

Stone had many accomplishments in her life – she was beloved in her own time, and still is today. She started Lindell Mills, the town’s first flour mill. She was in the hotel business. And today, Auntie Stone’s very own historic cabin is currently located at the Heritage Courtyard on Mathews Street. She continues to inspire history interpreters, educational programs, and many more!

 

Inga Allison (1876-1962)

Inga was known for her contributions to academia. She joined the Home Economics department at Fort Collins’ Colorado Agricultural College in 1908, at a time when several faculty members were starting to study the unique effects of high altitude on both crop growth and food preparation. Inga conducted active research in food preparation and preservation without laboratory facilities. Allison entered academia via research and natural sciences and became the head of the Home Economics Department, expanding the course of women’s education.

Next time you successfully bake a pan of brownies in Fort Collins that doesn’t develop a sinkhole in the middle, it will probably be because you considered some of the science developed by Dr. Allison.

 

Jovita Vallecillo Lobato (1908-2005)

Jovita was born in Fort Collins in 1908. Jovita’s parents worked in the sugar beet fields, and they understood that the way to a better life was through education, and thus encouraged Jovita and her younger brother Salvador to go to college. This was not the reality for most parents in Jovita’s community at the time – many children were needed to help support the family and work in the fields rather than go to school.

Jovita graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1932. She was the first Mexican-American student to graduate from public school in Fort Collins. Following high school, she enrolled at CSU (known at the time as Colorado Agricultural College) and became the first Mexican-American to graduate from CSU in 1936 – with degrees in economics and sociology, and a minor in education.

There are no identifiable photos of Jovita in either the Fort Collins High “Lambkin” yearbooks, or the CSU “Silver Spruce” yearbooks. The only time her name is mentioned is one instance in the 1937 Silver Spruce under the heading “Additional Seniors.” While there’s no evidence that these omissions of Jovita were intentionally malicious, they do follow a pattern of marginalized people often being invisible or overlooked in the historical record. Additionally, these omissions make people like Jovita difficult to research – most of the information gathered is from more recent newspaper clippings and the small number of materials that her family donated to the Archive.

 

Charlene Tresner (1918-1990)

Charlene was a lover of history. Charlene was assistant editor of the student newspaper at Fort Collins High School and she attended Colorado A&M, present-day CSU, where she was feature editor of the Collegian. Charlene also collected thousands of photographs and other archival materials, storing items under her bed until the local history section of the library was completed.

So many people have worked to make the Archive what it is over the years, but Charlene truly was the one who started it all. Charlene secured grant funding to start a program interviewing long-time residents of Fort Collins. Aided by members of the Fort Collins Historical Society and her personal connections, Charlene assembled and organized an amazing resource of thousands of photos and she wrote many historical articles for local news as well as her book Streets of Fort Collins. Charlene’s work can still be seen all over the Archive today. The Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery considers her a patron saint, as she spent years of her life collecting histories that continue to tell the story of Fort Collins.

 

Leonore (Nora) Rice Miller (1868-1959)

Leonore came to Fort Collins in 1893 and taught 6th and 7th grade at the Old Franklin School. But Nora had attended Michigan Medical School for two years, and, after a brief hiatus,  finished out her medical degree at the University of Colorado Medical School. She started her Fort Collins medical practice in 1908. At that time, automobiles had not come into common use, so Dr. Miller often traveled long distances by horse-drawn buggy to reach her patients. Much of her practice consisted of maternity cases, at a time when most babies were born at home rather than in a hospital.

The shortage of school teachers during WWII called her back to her earlier profession, and 1942 found her teaching physics, math and engineering at a high school in Montana.  She retired from teaching in 1949; died in 1959; and is buried in Grandview Cemetery. Although Nora transitioned her practice to other areas and began to teach after WWII, she is noted as an ambitious and inspiring woman to those pursing and involved in the medical field.

 

Phyllis Rosabonheur Greene Mattingly (1916-2000)

Phyllis came to Fort Collins in 1949. After a stint hosting a talk show on KCOL, Phyllis became an internationally recognized handwriting analyst. How does a woman in the 1970s become a graphoanalyst? Mattingly got professional training at the University of Chicago. Using her professional skills, she verified and interpreted wills, diaries and other documents, including – one of Adolf Hitler’s. She used her expertise in such varied areas as custody cases, pre-marriage compatibility consultations, and hiring decisions.

She taught handwriting analysis in Australia, lectured to the United Kingdom Chapter of Graphoanalysis, was included in the 1988 and 1989 editions of Who’s Who of the World’s Professional Women, and in 1987 was the International Graphoanalyst of the Year. The prosecution in the O.J. Simpson trial hired her to analyze handwriting of witnesses. She told them not to use Mark Fuhrman, but they did anyway, and he turned out to be an unreliable witness. Mattingly’s other claim to fame was as Fort Collins’ Welcome Lady. She brought newcomers gifts, coupons, and information about the town. She supported many diverse FoCo institutions like the symphony, the library, the Christian Science Church, the Women’s Choral Group, the local AARP chapter, and Easter Seals.

These women, and many more, have made history for being who they were. They are remembered for their accomplishments, as well as for the historical impact they have made on Fort Collins. Happy #WomensHistoryMonth!

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New Fishes!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

New Fishes!

We have new fishes in our Animals Encounter Exhibit at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery!

Our fish are all from the Cache le Poudre River watershed and are indigenous species. The American Fisheries Society (AFS) at the Warner College of Natural Resources, part of CSU, has partnered with FCMoD to provide us with native Colorado plains fish species.

Come visit the museum to see our new fishes!

The species now living in our tank are:

  • Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
  • Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas)
  • Longnose Dace (Rhinichthys cataractae)
  • Johnny Darter (Etheostoma nigrum)
  • Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus)

Members of the American Fisheries Society sample the Poudre River watershed for fish.

Photo by Sandra Hargraves

 

Members of the American Fisheries Society sample the Poudre River watershed for fish.

Photo by Sandra Hargraves

Johnny Darter

 

Common Shiner

Common Shiner

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Taming of the Show: Processing a Local Fort Collins Theatre Collection

Post written by Carly Boerrigter, History Graduate Student at Colorado State University, Fall 2018 Intern at FCMoD

Taming of the Show: Processing a Local Fort Collins Theatre Collection

This past December, I had the pleasure of visiting England and seeing a live performance of Macbeth at the Barbican Theater in London. The whole evening was at the beckoning of my partner who has been a longtime fan of Shakespeare.

However, for me, seeing Shakespeare performed live in front of me was colored by my own experiences with plays, not performing in them, but examining them in the Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

I was thinking of the tireless costume design, the sound bites running in the background, the director’s notes that surely filled the margins of the script, the artists involved in creating the play’s poster, and the photographer who surreptitiously had to take photos of the performance unfolding.

I was analyzing these seemingly minute aspects of the play, first of all because Shakespeare continues to boggle me and more importantly because for the past three months, I helped inventory a collection of documents from a local Fort Collins theatre company, OpenStage Theatre. In 1973, Bruce and Denise Freestone started OpenStage, which still performs in the local area today. In OpenStage Theatre’s almost 50 years of existence, it has put on plays by Arthur Miller, Oscar Wilde, Lillian Hellman, as well as- other local playwrights. Further, the Freestones kept intricate records of all of the 206 plays that OpenStage Theatre performed from 1973 to 2007. These records consist of almost every paper document relating to all 206 plays, as well as – countless financial and accounting documents, meeting minutes, notes to staff, membership information, and a gun (a fake gun, that I realized was a prop, but not after jumping away from it as I saw it laying innocently among newspaper clippings).

Where does one even begin to make some sort of organizational sense with a collection like this?

I started big ­– with the MPLP (more product, less process) mentality, currently popular among archivists. To give you an idea, I opened up every box of those 102 boxes and wrote notes to myself about what exactly each box contained. Scripts? Receipts? Season ticket renewals? Meeting minutes from 1975? Donations? Grant applications? I took brief notes because the contents of those boxes ran the gamut.

A typical note to myself can be seen below

Here are a few of the 102 boxes with their notes tagged on them

 

Generally from here, the archivist would find some sort of organizational pattern amongst the chaos. For instance, for OpenStages’s collection, all documents fell into two major categories: documents pertaining to the plays or office files.

For the majority of my time at FCMoD, I focused on the actual documents surrounding the productions. These records consisted of hand drawn set and costume designs, photographs of actors applying makeup backstage and engaging in rousing sword fights on stage, unique and moving posters advertising productions to the public, playbills given to audience members, newspaper clippings advertising and commenting on performances, and much more.

By the end of my internship, I presented the Curator of the Archive, Lesley Struc, with about 15 boxes of neatly organized archival file folders, which all corresponded to one of the 206 plays performed between 1973 and 2007. Below, you can see an image of a before and after photo of a box of slides that I processed.

Before

After

Now, when OpenStage begins the preliminary planning stages of their 50th anniversary, a researcher can visit the Archive at FCMoD and find a host of unique items that OpenStage Theatre produced, from costume and set designs for the Children’s Hour, to the newspaper clippings of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, to the intricate and textured orange poster for Carmen – a trove of organized treasures awaits them.

Research and commemorations would not be possible without the tireless work of archivists and I am happy that I was able to make the Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery a little more accessible, just in time for the 50th anniversary OpenStage festivities to begin.

Photos courtesy of Carly Boerrigter.

Thank YOU, Carly, for being an awesome FCMoD intern! We so appreciate your hard work and our community is grateful for the work you’ve done to make local history accessible to all.

Interested in interning at FCMoD? Check out opportunities under the “Internships” section of this page.

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