Meet our new millipedes!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

We have a new exhibit up in the Animal Encounters zone: Millipedes!

The name “millipede” comes from Latin and means “thousand feet”. Millipedes have two pairs of legs for each body segment and usually more than 20 segments – which is a lot of legs! – but no millipede has actually been found that has 1,000 feet.

Millipedes eat vegetables, fruit, decomposing plants, and will even eat poop from other animals. They are the cleaning crew for the animal world!

These arthropods will curl up into a spiral or coil when they feel threatened. They can also burrow underground to find protection from predators, as well as food and cool temperatures.

There are a few different kinds you can find in our tank:

Florida Ivory Millipede (Chicobolus spinigerus)

The Florida Ivory millipede is native to the American Southeast (Florida, Georgia, Alabama). They are smaller and black-and-white striped.

American Desert Millipede (Orthoporus ornatus)

The American Desert Millipede is native to the deserts in the American Southwest. This species comes in several colors, depending on where they live and what colors keep them camouflaged and safe. The dark red-brown millipedes in the tank are also called Sonoran Millipedes, as that color tends to be found in Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert. The brown and gold millipedes are also known as Texas Gold Millipedes, as they are found in – you guessed it – Texas.

Come see FCMoD’s millipedes during our open hours and stop by for our monthly series, Meet the Animals!

 

 

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Battery A: Second Battle of the Marne

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Research Assistant, and Doug Ernest, Archive Volunteer.

During four months in combat in World War I, Battery A took part in three major battles: the Second Battle of the Marne (July 15–August 6), the Battle of St. Mihiel (September 12–16), and the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne (September 26–November 11). The Meuse-Argonne remains the largest battle ever fought in American history, with 1.2 million American troops involved and a casualty roll of approximately 122,000 dead and wounded.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Fort Collins soldiers of Battery A had a significant role in World War I.

At the Second Battle of the Marne (also known as the Aisne-Marne Offensive) Battery A saw their first dead and wounded soldiers from both sides of the conflict, witnessed enemy aircraft circle overhead, and suffered deadly gas exposure.

In his history of Battery A’s Grande Puissance Filloux artillery piece, aka “Gila Monster,” Hurdle tells us that at the start of the German offensive, the GPF was in action for 72 hours. The barrel grew so hot that it could have fried steak and eggs and at times had to be filled with water to cool it.

H0096: Excerpt from Hurdle’s history of the GPF “Gila Monster,” with “steak and eggs” reference circled

The troops’ efforts in July and August of 1918 would significantly impact the future of the war. Whereas in the spring and early summer of 1918 the Germans had been on the attack, hoping to defeat the French and British before American troops arrived, the Second Battle of the Marne reversed that situation. From August 1918 until the end of the war, the Germans were on the defensive, and the Allies always moving forward.

An anonymous letter from a member of Battery A to the Rocky Mountain Collegian reported: “We counter-attacked right in the center of [the German] push, men met men, and after the hell stopped we held the River Marne’s south bank, and Paris, if not the world, was saved.” (“Battery A Actively Engaged in Fiercest of American Drives,” Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 2, 1919).

In a letter to The Weekly Courier (published August 16 but dated July 12), Hurdle writes “the doughboys here tell us that when the gas comes over, there are just two kinds of soldiers, ‘the quick and the dead’ … ” (page 2.)

Unfortunately, that deadly gas could spread almost instantaneously, and Hurdle was caught by it on August 10, near the village of Chery-Chartreuve. Though in serious condition due to gas exposure, he refused to be evacuated. His military Record Book shows him as having participated in battles until August 16, 1918, but not thereafter. It seems likely that the Army sent him to a rear area not just for further officer training (he had been promoted from corporal to sergeant in the summer of 1918), but also to allow him time to recuperate from the lingering effects of that terrible gas exposure.

H0108: Hurdle’s Officer’s Record Book, with gassing incident circled

 

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Honoring Dee Wanger

Post written by Kristin Rush, Marketing & Communications Manager. 

At this year’s Celebration of Gratitude, the museum’s annual event recognizing the support of donors, volunteers, and Founders, FCMoD honored Dee Wanger. Dee is the woman responsible for the establishment of a little organization back in the eighties called the Discovery Science Center (ever heard of it?). Thanks to Dee, and a number of highly motivated community members, their dream of an interactive, engaging, and hands-on organization focusing on science and technology for children came to life. At the museum’s Celebration of Gratitude, Dee gave the timeline of events that led to where we are now:

1986: Dee visited the Houston Children’s Museum and thought, “Fort Collins could use something like this!”

1987: Dee turned to the yellow pages, calling about six different museums to ask about what it takes to create a museum from the ground up.

1988: The ball began rolling and did not stop! Dee attended the Boston Children’s Museum seminar in April and then, in October of 1988, Dee and 15-20 people came together to begin the process of opening a museum in Fort Collins.

1989: In March of 1989, with the help of $50 donations from committee members recruited by Dee, the Northern Colorado Children’s Museum became incorporated. In the same year, it was officially renamed the Discovery Science Center.

It took 2.5 years to go from concept to launch. The Discover Science Center was located in the old Barton Elementary School off of Prospect Rd. When discussion began of merging the Discovery Science Center with the Fort Collins Museum in 2008, the Discovery Science Center temporarily relocated into the Fort Collins Museum’s building, then located in Library Park. After that, as they say, the rest is history. The two organizations then became what the museum is now: the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Dee giving her remarks and being honored at Celebration of Gratitude, April 23rd, 2018.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

As Dee said at Celebration of Gratitude, “Then, as now, it was with the contributions of time, talent, energy and funding by passionate, dedicated people that has enabled the museum to grow and thrive beyond a current vision. I have tremendous gratitude for that.”

“At the time, we had a vision, but I think the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery has far-surpassed what we could imagine.”

Thank you, Dee, for your time, talent, energy and passion. We wouldn’t be here without you.

The museum relies on the generosity of you – our community – to do everything we do. Please consider donating to support explorations in science and culture for all.

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Diamond T Fire Truck

Post written by Kristin Rush, Marketing & Communications Manager. 

History speaks to us from many sources. From words and pictures we construct images of the past. But no source is more alive than the legacy we can still see and touch for ourselves. And so it is with the Diamond T Fire Truck.

The Diamond T was a mainstay of the Fort Collins municipal fire department from 1937 to 1963. When the department’s original ladder truck was damaged in a collision in 1937, City Council approved the $1,234.85 necessary to purchase a Diamond T chassis. Without delay, the firefighters sprang into action. They repaired and remodeled the body from the wrecked truck and installed it on the new Diamond T chassis. As shiny as a newly minted coin, bearing 287 feet of ladder and 237 different tools, the Diamond T, Truck No. 3, found its home in the Walnut Street Fire Station.

The Diamond T reached the end of its fire-fighting days in the 1960s when newer equipment pushed aside the old. It was sold to Lake County in 1963. In 1981, after years of languishing in the elements, the deteriorated Diamond T was sold to a private individual, who then sold it to the Fort Collins Museum for $685.

In 1994 the Fort Collins Museum and retired fire chief Ed Yonker [pictured below] initiated a campaign to restore the Diamond T, which was designated a Local Landmark in 1996. Local citizens, businesses and the Colorado Historical Society State Historical Fund all contributed to the effort to breathe new life into the Diamond T and restore it to its 1952 appearance.

The restoration process was completed over the course of a year by the Colorado Artifact Conservation Center (CACC) in Ordway, Colorado. The truck was completely taken apart, rewired, repaired, rebuilt and rechromed piece by piece. The restoration crew is pictured with the Diamond T below.

Poudre Fire Authority Lead Mechanic, Jim Mirowski, rebuilt and installed the Diamond T’s engine. Although much of the original vehicle was preserved, its dilapidated condition required the use of some parts salvaged from other Diamond T’s. The tires and upholstery are reproductions.

Our history tells us who we are, and preserving it sharpens our understanding and sense of direction. Preserving the Diamond T, saving it from near extinction, helps us stay in touch with a century of fire-fighting lore, and the small town ingenuity which found ways to adopt the Diamond T to ever-changing needs.

“Our history tells us who we are.”

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery will continue to care for the Diamond T and all the other objects within its trust, preserving them for generations to come.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jim C.

Volunteer Spotlight: Interview with Jim C. by Laurel Drasner, Volunteer Coordinator

Position at FCMoD: Exhibits Assistant

When you started volunteering here: I started at FCMoD in July of 2014, but I used to help at the Discovery Center around 2006 when it was at Barton Elementary.

Hobbies/Interests: Firstly, I like telling silly jokes! Also, I have a woodshop at home in my garage, and I like to make tables, dressers, bookcases, bowls, and gavels- to name a few. I also enjoy singing in the church choir, trout fishing, and running.

Hometown: I’m from Alamosa, on the south bank of the Rio Grande.

Current/previous occupation: I am a retired Hearing Officer for unemployment insurance claims with the State. Prior to that, I was an unemployment fraud investigator, although my degree is in Agriculture!

Favorite book: My favorite book is Bowser the Hound from my childhood.

Favorite vacation memory: My favorite vacation memory was taking a road trip with my family to the Grand Canyon in my motor home. It started snowing, and my daughter-in-law, Jittima, had never seen snow. She made snow angels and snow balls, and it was so much fun. It was like seeing a kid discover snow for the first time.

One thing you want people to know about you: I ran for the first cross-country track team at Alamosa High School, and we got second in State that year! Later, I met my wife at a square-dance. She saw my Alamosa letter jacket, and we both asked at the same time if we knew the same fellow, which happened to be her brother! I later had the opportunity to go back and square-dance with our son on my shoulders.

Favorite thing about volunteering at FCMoD: I like getting to create new things, and I like seeing projects from beginning to end. It’s neat to get to help others with their projects.

Thank you for all you do for FCMoD, Jim!

 

Interested in volunteering? Learn more here.

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Battery A: Before the Battle

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Research Assistant, and Doug Ernest, Archive Volunteer

In May of 1918, Battery A soldiers were stationed at training camps at Libourne and Castillon, near Bordeaux, France.

In letters published in local newspapers in May and June of 1918, John Hurdle described the French locals, visits to nearby castles and dungeons, and eating doughnuts back at Battery A. He also mentions the issuance of helmets and artillery, although censorship kept him from describing the 155 mm GPFs (Grande Puissance Filloux) in detail.

Here are excerpts from the May 1918 letter written by Hurdle and published in the Fort Collins Weekly Courier:

“Our quarters and office are right in the middle of town in the front of a boys’ school building. …We have a nice bed of violets, carnations and tulips in the yard … We are the first American troops to stop here and the people treat us grand … The country here is much better than the part we just left; has large “chateaus” and well kept fields and excellent roads. … About two miles from here is what the natives call the oldest town in France. I went over, saw a lot of old castles and dungeons which they say were built about 300 A.D.” (Friday, May 31, 1918)

“We have finally drawn our own guns … Capt. Coffin would have no trouble at all in killing one of Dora’s pet milk cows with the gun set up in our back yard at 400. … We have also drawn helmets which we are told are shrapnel proof. They are not much from a beauty standpoint but they are excellent for rainy weather and can be used for wash pan, cuspidor, frying pan or foot tub with very satisfactory results.” (Friday, May 31, 1918)

A letter written by Vance Lough was also published in the Fort Collins newspaper. Lough, formerly the proprietor of Poudre Valley Dairy, was now a truck driver with Battery A. He described the French countryside, and went on to note “The boys [of the Battery] are becoming good Frenchmen so far as drinking wine is concerned.”

Despite the excursions recounted by Hurdle and Lough, the real work of the unit continued day after day: firing the 155 mm GPFs, transporting guns by convoy, marching, and practicing the use of gas masks. The time for drills and practice was nearing its end: On July 4, 2018, the 148th moved northward, and on July 6 they heard the sound of firing for the first time. The men of the Colorado batteries were about to take part in their first battle.

Next post:  Second Battle of the Marne

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Interview with Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger

Post written by Kristin Rush, Marketing & Communications Manager.

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery had the honor of hosting former NASA astronaut, Dorothy “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger, at this year’s Celebration of Gratitude on Monday, April 23rd. Celebration of Gratitude is the museum’s annual event honoring donors, partners, and volunteers. Dottie, a graduate of Fort Collins High School, was selected by NASA to be a Mission Specialist on the STS-131 Discovery in April of 2010. When she flew to the International Space Station, she took a Fort Collins High School Lambkin with her, which is on display at FCMoD, along with her suit and helmet. The exhibit display is located in the Woodward Special Exhibition Gallery, with the Smithsonian developed exhibit, Earth from Space, currently on display until June 3rd.

 

Dottie, the keynote speaker at Celebration of Gratitude, sat down with staff for an interview. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

  1. How did growing up in Colorado shape your ambitions and goals?

I grew up in Loveland and graduated from Fort Collins High School, and I think what I like to credit Colorado having is big skies and great rocks. My parents took me to visit our local museums, and I also had a really great education. The experience of being outdoors often, and being able to see the stars at night was so special. Now raising my daughter in Seattle, I realize that it’s actually rare for people to see the night sky so regularly. It’s a pretty big deal to have that all the time in Colorado. So I really credit all of those things with helping to shape my perspective.

 

  1. What were your biggest fears and biggest dreams when entering the Astronaut Corps?

It’s a bit intimidating to be joining the people who are considered to have “the right stuff.” Even though lots of people have “the right stuff” for all different reasons. Just living up to the expectations of being an astronaut, and then fulfilling those expectations of what people see and expect is a lot. It’s a dream and a fear at the same time.

Also, you want to make sure you keep your crew mates safe. You’re aware of the risks. I wasn’t afraid when I signed up. I had been aware of the risk of space flight with other missions. It’s helping others that care about you understand those risks and how we try to mitigate them.

 

  1. What are the qualities in yourself that you believe made you successful as an Astronaut Candidate?

I worked hard in school, in math and sciences – actually in all my classes I did well! Also, being an athlete was very important. A lot of being an astronaut is being physically fit – like the training that’s in the water in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, where you work over 5-6 hours in the water moving big bulky suits. You need to be able to fly in your T-38. You need to be healthy. Therefore, being an athlete was important. It also just so happens that they were hiring teachers in 2004, and I was a very motivated teacher. A number of these factors helped me rise to the top.

 

  1. What role would you like to see museums like FCMoD play in helping prepare young people for a career in STEAM related fields?

I see museums as a collective that allow you to experience things that you could not individually do by yourself. Museums allow you to time-travel into the past, but also fast forward way beyond into the future. They allow you to keep coming back, revisiting, and rediscovering. Every time you visit there is something new. From taking small children and hitting the highlights, to visiting with students for a particular subject, such as growing up in Colorado or a specific unit in science, to doing research. A unique thing about museums too is special traveling exhibits! The special exhibit FCMoD has right now is great!

 

“Museums allow you to time-travel into the past, but also fast forward way beyond into the future.”

 

  1. What were the biggest differences in your training and the actuality of being in space?

Well, the good thing is that you don’t have nearly the problems that they put you through in the simulator. We would go into a simulator just about once a week as we were leading up to our flight. They break main engines, fuel cells, computers, the communication systems, with the point of helping you understand how these systems work and helping you recognize that you can work well under pressure, and back each other up. So when you get to space it’s a lot easier! But when you get to space you have “space brain” because there’s all this new stuff that’s very stimulating, so you start paying attention to other things. It’s good they overstimulated you with potential failures, so you’ve been trained to focus on the important things.

 

  1. Does your all-astronaut rock-band, “Max Q” still perform and what were/are your songs about?

We tried to get back together! Chris is in Canada, Ricky and Drew are on the space station now, Tracy’s in Houston, and Steve is in California. We’re all pretty far flung. That’s what was hard about the retirement of the shuttle. We tried to pass on the band to the next classes of astronauts, but those classes were small – they had musicians within them – but they were already overtasked with so many other things in their life that adding in music was challenging.

Our songs were just cover songs. [Laughs] We had one original song, but it’s a little bit like a song that already existed, with some different lyrics. We covered some Train with “Drops of Jupiter.” They weren’t all space themed though!

 

  1. What’s the hardest thing to describe about space?

Just the everyday things you do that you take for granted are a little bit harder. Putting your contacts in, combing your hair, brushing your teeth – it takes additional time to do everything. I am sure people who live on the space station for extended periods of time are able to adapt, but being on the station for 15 days, it’s like being on a camping trip – you just take those extra steps to do normal, daily things. It’s hard to describe to people something like you can’t shower in space. That blows kids’ minds, they are like “that’s gross!” I mean, we keep clean. You can show what happens to water when it’s floating around. We have water – you just can’t shower!

 

  1. Now that you’ve had the view of Earth from space, what do you think about when you look up at the night sky?

I think it’s still so beautiful. I’ve always thought it was so beautiful. I had a telescope (gifted from Santa!) in sixth grade. I taught astronomy, and even now I build a telescope with my students, so I’ve always liked looking at the night sky. Now I take my daughter to check these things out. I took her to see the eclipse in 2017, and at first she was like “why are we driving 8 hours to the other side of Oregon” but then when she saw the actual totality of the eclipse, she understood why I wanted her to see it and experience it.

 

  1. What was the most impactful take-away from your time at the International Space Station?

As an Earth scientist, as someone who saw the atmosphere, I realized I have a voice. People listen to me now that I’ve been in space. So what I try to always tell people is: Earth is our spaceship for 7 billion-plus people and it needs to be taken care of.

 

“Earth is our spaceship for 7 billion-plus people and it needs to be taken care of.”

 

  1. FCMoD displays an exhibits case with the Fort Collins High Lambkin you took into space. How does it feel to have your story preserved in a museum? 

It was really cool to see the display! It’s amazing! As a kid, when I’d come to the old Fort Collins Museum, you see things from the past and you wonder about the people, the objects, everything. I hope my story in FCMoD helps inspire kids to be whatever they want to be when they grow up. In my case, I wanted to be an astronaut!

 

  1. What do you wish people would ask you about space?

Hmmm, people ask a lot of really great questions about it, but that’s a good question… I try to be pretty transparent about my experience. One thing I’ve been telling kids about is that astronauts also get disappointed, and that it’s ok to be disappointed. There were some things I really wanted to do in space, like I wanted be a space walker. I was the backup – which is awesome in and of itself – but I wasn’t able to actually do it. I also wanted to run on the treadmill, but there was only one and it had some issues. If I used it and anything happened to it, the exercise of the ISS crew members would be impacted. I think it’s important to know you don’t always get everything you want. You learn this as you grow up.  This is a lesson I try to teach my daughter. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! I got to go to space and loved it, but there might be some disappoints that you hold to – and that’s ok! It’s ok to be a little disappointed – that’s life.

 

  1. What type of research do you think will be done in the future of space travel, NASA, and the like?

There are so many breakthroughs with the human body. We saw just this summer that genes may change as people are in space. We know that interocular pressure has changed. So understanding “why is this happening?” – why is there a fluid shift in the head? Is that bad? What are the long-term implications of that? So there’s a lot of medical studies coming out that I think will be interesting research and data to explore. Of course, research takes time, so that is important to remember.

 

  1. Here at FCMoD, we host Space Explorers and Space Adventurers Summer Camps. What advice do you have for the future little astronauts, scientists, explorers, and dreamers of the world?

Always be curious. Curiosity took me a lot of different places. It’s allowed me to climb mountains, go to space, and also just enjoy every day – some little piece of the day will always be new or different. I just saw an odd bird on my way here – that was fun! Curiosity will keep you going and excited about each new day. In their lifetime, their jobs are not even created yet! By being curious, they get to create their own futures! Be curious: explore & discover.

 

“Always be curious.”

 

Thank you to Dottie for her time and inspiration!

FCMoD relies on your generosity to do everything we do. Please consider supporting discovery for all today. 

 

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Earth Day 1970

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Research Assistant.

On April 21, 1970, the Coloradoan’s above-the-fold front page was dedicated to Earth Day stories: a national AP piece (“Key is local participation”), a picture of an electric car at CSU (“Electric car part of environmental teach-in at CSU”), and a few inches about students advocating for a cleaner environment (“CSU students sign national interdependence declaration”).

This year marked the first Earth Day celebration. According to the AP article above, Earth Day grew out of a suggestion made by Senator Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis.

The text accompanying the electric car photo notes “the automobile is powered by a 15 horsepower electric motor and 20 six-volt batteries. Before modification the car weighed 1,775 pounds. It now weighs 4,160 pounds. … The car has a driving range between 70 and 120 miles before recharging. The batteries can be charged up to 800 times. Replacement cost of the batteries is estimated at $600.”

Compare these to the specs for the Tesla Model 3 (long range sedan):  271 horsepower, 75 kWh 350V lithium-ion battery, weight 3,838 pounds, driving range 310 miles, battery charge time 12 hours at 220V.

The 1970 article doesn’t mention how long it took to charge the battery, which remains one of the biggest practical obstacles today to committing to an electric car. According to NREL, approximately 8,600 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) were registered in Colorado as of the end of 2016. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, by 2020 over 120 electric vehicle models will be available to consumers, including the Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model 3, and 2nd generation Nissan Leaf.

Here’s the Department of Energy listing of charging stations in Colorado. We are so pleased that FCMoD is included.

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Sugar Beet Science and Microbiology

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Research Assistant.

Did you know that scientific research using the humble sugar beet led to the birth of microbiology?

In the 1800s, agriculture and manufacturing industries struggled to meet the demands of a growing and changing population. Science was applied rigorously to solve domestic challenges, and the “industrialization of agriculture was reflected in the growth of the sugar beet, fermentation and other food industries.” (Needham, p. 189)  Scientists in the mid-1850s wanted to understand the chemical nature of living matter, not only for the betterment of agriculture, but for the sake of pure science.

Louis Pasteur (1822 –1895), famous for his vaccines and processes of sterilization, began his career by studying the crystalline structure of organic substances. He believed that asymmetrical structure, which produced optical activity (the polarization of light), was related to life itself, and that processes like fermentation worked because the substances involved were alive (what we now call microbes or microorganisms). Pasteur taught his students the principles of bleaching, sugar refining, and fermentation, including the processes used in the manufacture of beetroot alcohol.

Sugarbeets were a big industry in France, and one of the Lille distilleries asked Pasteur to help them solve a problem they were having with spoiled product. Pasteur analyzed the fermentation processes that he observed at M. Bigo’s sugarbeetroot distillery (circa 1856), and tied those observations to his research on the asymmetry of living substances.

What began as a search for the cause of spoiled beet alcohol led to a full-on investigation of fermentation. If the products of fermentation were alive, as Pasteur thought, then fermentation was a living process, not one of decay, as was believed by many scientists at the time.

But if that were true, where did that life come from? Could it spontaneously generate, as some believed (Pasteur thought not)? Fermentation was at the root of important scientific debates at the time, and investigating questions like these heralded the beginning of microbiology (the study of microscopic organisms).

Pasteur eventually proved that microbes in the air we breathe kick-start many processes (like fermentation) that are inherent in organic matter. Pasteur also determined many important principles about living microbes; for example, that microbes infecting animals caused disease, the so-called “germ theory” of disease.

Image: Wagons bringing in sugar beet harvest to C&S Depot on Mason Street, Fort Collins, Colorado, circa 1902.

 

Sources:

  • Needham, Joseph (ed.). The Chemistry of Life: Eight Lectures on the History of Biochemistry (1970: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge).
  • Geison, Gerald L. The Private Science of Louis Pasteur (1995: Princeton University Press, Princeton).
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Leave it to Beaver: Conservation of our natural and cultural heritage

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections

(A personal disclaimer: I grew up in Oregon–the Beaver State; in Corvallis, which is the home of Oregon State University and, of course, the mighty OSU Beavers. Our family drove around with twin stickers on our back-bumper declaiming “I’m a Beaver Believer” and “I’ve Got Beaver Fever.” I come by my love for these buck-toothed engineers honestly, and my “beaver fever” is unabashed.)

My experience with historical research has taught me that it can be almost impossible to pick up and follow a single topic: inevitably one thing is knotted on to another, tangled up with a dozen more, and sometimes tied on to its own tail. This has been the way it’s gone with my research on the beaver felt top hat of my last post. My research on that object made me curious to see what other artifacts of beaver history are preserved in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s collections. Turns out it is an impressive inventory:

3 beaver felt top hats in addition to the one attributed to President Lincoln

1 elegant felt lady’s riding hat

2 wide-brimmed beaver felt Stetsons

1 pair of beaver fur mitts

1 bearskin coat trimmed at the collar and cuffs with beaver fur

1 sweet beaver fur cape and muff set, made from beavers trapped on George Campton’s ranch in Livermore about 1910 for his sister

1 old beaver trap, pulled out of the Cache La Poudre River and donated to the Museum in the 1960s

1 pelt from a beaver trapped by the donor himself in Colorado and donated in 1979

2 stuffed and mounted beavers (the largest and fattest dang beavers I’ve ever seen)

a set of beaver skulls

and, finally, various pairs of bright orange upper front beaver teeth

The presence of these beaver-related objects in the Museum’s collections reflects a steady involvement of the species in our region’s history, despite an economically driven “beaver fever” that severely depleted their numbers before Colorado had even become a state. The earliest historical trapping records of the Colorado Rocky Mountain region show sixty to eighty beaver present per mile of stream. By the turn of the 20th century the species’ population nationwide was as low as 100,000 individuals, very few of whom were here in the West.

Two sources I’ve come across recently not only decry the West’s loss of beaver populations, but advocate their protection and reintroduction as a means of conserving our region’s natural and cultural riches. Both recognize that in shaping the region’s waterways to their own purposes, beavers once played, and can play again, a vital role in maintaining the environments in which the region’s unique human history has unfolded. The first of these is Beaver World, a charming book by Enos Mills, a signed copy of which is in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s Local History Archive. Mills was a passionate advocate for the natural world, and an astute direct observer of wild animals interacting with the environment. Beaver World was published in 1913, and in it Mills not only gushes about the beaver’s emblematic industriousness, “He works not only tooth and nail, but tooth and tail,” but more insightfully recognizes the role the species plays in maintaining both a healthy ecosystem, and a landscape humans find welcoming and pleasing:

Beaver works are of economical and educational value besides adding a charm to the wilds. The beaver is a persistent practicer of conservation and should not perish from the hills and mountains of our land. Altogether, the beaver has so many interesting ways, is so useful, skillful, practical, and picturesque that his life and his deeds deserve a larger place in literature and in our hearts.

The beaver’s role in maintaining healthy, functional Western ecosystems is the central focus in the much more contemporary article “Voyage of the Dammed,” carried in The High Country News. Writing at a time when water conservation is a high-profile problem and many of its proposed solutions carry high price tags, author Kevin Taylor outlines the position of environmentalists and other concerned citizens who advocate, at least in part, leaving it to the beavers:

The humble, hardworking rodent, through its dams and ponds, can extend the release of water late into summer, saturating the ground and healing watersheds. It has the power to re-create the primordial, wetter West that existed for millennia.

The article extends the beaver’s vital restorative role to cultural values as well. Taylor quotes a Coeur d’Alene tribal elder, 86-year-old Felix Aripa, who sees within the native ecosystems restored by beaver activity the roots of cultural restoration: in the returning native plants, fish, and animal species are embodied the cultural riches of language and long-held cultural knowledge.

These two sources have whetted my appetite for learning more about this species, and for doing what I can to promote its ongoing presence in our region. I understand that in caring for the beaver artifacts which lie within the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s collection — clothing, tools, and scientific specimens — we preserve the history of a species which plays a central role in the Native American traditions of this area, as well as in the story of the region’s surge in population and development in the 19th century. As I read the strong praise Enos Mills gives this species and the excited plans of those advocating its restoration, I’m thrilled with the possibility that within today’s beaver population is preserved a solution to our region’s compelling need to conserve both the health of the environment and the wealth of our cultural and historical heritage. “I’m a Beaver Believer” indeed.

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