National Authors Day: Barbara Fleming

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing & Design Assistant. 

National Authors Day

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery had the honor of interviewing local author, Barbara Fleming. Barbara, a Colorado native, was interested in history and reading historical novels at a young age. When she went to college at Colorado State University, she studied English and writing. Barbara then ventured out to work as a journalist, teacher, and finally found herself writing books of her own in the 1980s.

Barbara sat down with staff for an interview in honor of National Authors Day on November 1st. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection to FCMoD?

I am a native of Fort Collins. I have always been a lover of history. When I retired, and we moved back to Fort Collins, my late husband and I, I started writing the historical column for the now Fort Collins Weekly which became Fort Collins Now, in the meantime I had been contacted by a company called Arcadia publishing about writing historical books. So, I got together with a friend of mine, Mac McNeill, and we put together Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs and in the course of writing that I got even more interested in the history of my hometown because it is rich and fascinating. So, when the Weekly went out of business, I contacted the Coloradoan and started writing the column for them. Doing that brought me to the Archive multiple times before and after it was moved to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD). I was well acquainted with [the archivists] back in the basement of the Carnegie building, where the Archive used to be, and am still now acquainted with the archivists at FCMoD. So, I have been coming to the Archive for a very long time.

“The history of [Fort Collins] is rich and fascinating.”

  1. What inspired you to become a writer?

I was always a writer. I started writing, almost, well actually before I started school and I taught myself to read when I was four years old. When I was young I was going to be like Jo March from little women – I was going to be sitting in a garret and eating apples and writing famous books. Didn’t quite work out that way, I had to earn a living, so instead I started teaching English. I did write a book in 1983, which is called, Fort Collins a Pictorial History, which is a hard-back book that is now out of print. And subsequently I wrote from time to time about various topics for various publications. It was not until I came back here that I started to devote more time. I went to college at CSU. My late husband Tom and I lived in Denver for a time and I taught at various community colleges as an adjunct English teacher. But I was always a writer.

  1. How did the process of writing your first book, Journeying, go?

Journeying was the first book I published without a co-author. Then I published a couple more: Legendary Locals of Fort Collins, Fort Collins A History, and Hidden History of Fort Collins. The process included a lot of research, and a lot of pondering. But when I write a novel – and I have written several, even though only two have been published – I just wait for the characters to find out what they are going to do, that’s hard to describe if you’re not a writer, but writers understand that. Journeying is historical fiction. The others I have written are more contemporary, but who knows if they will ever see the light of day, it’s hard to say.

  1. Now that you’ve been published, is there anything you wish you would have known before?

I think any writer can look at anything he or she has published and would like to do it all over again. We can see the flaws even if other people can’t. But, no, when your writing you reach a point that I quit that’s it and enough is enough and you let it go because you have to. So, no there is not anything that I wish I would have known before.

  1. What are some books you would recommend for locals to learn about Fort Collins history?

History of Larimer County Colorado by Ansel Watrous – it’s not a book you sit down and read, but a book you can take in bits and pieces of. And a book that ought to be in any serious historian’s library. And Fort Collins Yesterdays by Evadene Swanson as well as and John Gray’s book The Story of Camp and Fort Collins: Calvary and Coaches, which I would love to own (but if I got it through ebay or somewhere it would cost me almost $300 so I can’t do that). The Wrecking Ball of Progress by Wayne Sundberg is a good video to understand about historic preservation. The museum has done a video about the history of Fort Collins and that’s a good one too. I don’t listen to podcasts so can’t recommend one. There is a digital newspaper state collection online, Colorado historic newspapers, which goes from beginning of newspapers of the 1860s to 1924, that they have all been digitized.

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

Anything that can get them engaged is of value. Young people are – well I can’t make generalizations – I feel young people can be somewhat disaffected, and not as involved with the world around them as we – or I – would like them to be. Anything a museum, or anyplace really, does that reaches young people and encourages them to be engaged and hands-on is of value. The arts are critical to the survival of a culture. We need art.

“Anything a museum does that reaches young people and encourages them to be engaged & hands-on is of value.”

  1. FCMoD’s archive has multiple of your books in our collections. How does it feel to have your story preserved in a museum?

I think it’s very gratifying. I think the more information we can share about history the better. To me, history is not just dates and events – and that’s the way it is usually taught. And so, a lot of people say they hate history and say it is boring. History is people and their stories. And so, I don’t record history. I tell stories. And there is a huge difference between the two. So, I am pleased if my stories are there for future generations.

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

Hmm…  I think rather than having people ask me about writing, because it is such an individual task, I would like to be able to encourage people to write, whether they think they are good writers or not, because everyone has stories to tell and we ought to share our stories. So even if you do nothing more as an older person than write out significant events in your life, you are telling a story and that is what is important. I would love to think that such ideas and information are being shared by younger generations. One of the things I do is through the Partnership for Age- Friendly Communities- a formal nonprofit organization. They publish a blog once a month called Graceful Aging that is written by older people whose stories are told about their experiences of aging. Our goal is to reach young people to help them understand what it feels like to be old and what kind of experiences we had and what we share; to touch them in some way.

  1. Here at FCMoD, we tell the stories of Northern Colorado. Part of the museum’s vision is to inspire inquisitive thinkers. What advice do you have for the future journalists, writers, authors and dreamers of the world?

Well for writers, first of all, write about what you know, write from your own life and experience and it will expand as you begin to write to the world around you.

For dreamers, I think anything is possible, the world is changing so rapidly, so intensely, that we sometimes, I feel that I am on a merry-go-round, going around and around, faster than I can keep up with. I think you just have to grab the brass ring and believe anything is possible… because look how far we’ve come.

In my lifetime, it’s astounding, we have gone from communication by telephone – when I was growing up we had a party line – to this; to the internet. It is astounding what has happened, even in the last twenty years. I think it is because people keep dreaming, and I think people need to keep dreaming. Writers should know though that making a living writing is tough, really tough. I couldn’t live on my writing. I travel on it, but I couldn’t live on it. Unless you’re really lucky or if you’re JK Rowling or James Patterson, you’re not going to make a living. But that should not deter them from writing because there are always stories to share. And I think we do not share enough.

“I think you just have to grab the brass ring and believe anything is possible… because look how far we’ve come.”

Thank you to Barbara for her time and for sharing her stories!

To find out more about Barbara’s books and to hear more from a local author follow: www.authorbarbarafleming.com

Barbara will also be at a book signing December 1st at JAX Outdoor for their annual author day celebration.

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Día de los Muertos Celebration

Guest post written by Poudre River Public Library District, with thanks to Johanna & Ludy. 

Day of the Dead Celebration and Altar Exhibit

The Day of the Dead / Día de los Muertos is an annual Mexican celebration when families gather to honor the memory of loved ones on October 31, November 1, and 2. Scholars trace the origins of this celebration back hundreds of years to Aztec festivals held during the summer. After colonization, the festivities were shifted to coincide with “All Saint’s Eve.”

Since then, the festivity has been celebrated all over the world and centers on honoring, remembering, and celebrating the lives of those who have departed.

Our community, organizations, and agencies have celebrated Día de los Muertos for over a decade with the Poudre River Public Library District. We are very intentional in the creation of a program that decenters power of European ideologies in this event.

This year the celebration of family and remembrance takes center stage at the Día de los Muertos Celebration at Northside Aztlan Community Center (112 E. Willow St.) on Friday, November 2 from 5:00 – 6:30PM.

The entire community is invited to celebrate the Day of the Dead and learn about this traditional Mexican holiday. This year’s event includes family-friendly activities, bilingual storytime, sugar skull decoration, altars, live music and dance, and Mexican food sampling.

Traditional Altar Display

One of the most visual parts of the Día de los Muertos tradition is the altar, a carefully crafted centerpiece of the annual celebration. For this year’s celebration, a specially crafted altar, designed and created by Ludy Rueda representing the Library District, will be on display at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (408 Mason Ct.) from October 24 – November 4.

Each family or individual’s Día de los Muertos altar is a complex and personal creation with incredible symbolism as each element included carries specific meaning. Here are the most important elements, from flowers to food to fire, and what they mean.

The free Día de los Muertos community celebration is presented by Poudre River Public Library District, City of Fort Collins Parks and Recreation, The Family Center La Familia, and Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Image courtesy Poudre River Public Library District

Celebración y Ofrenda del Día de los Muertos

El día de los muertos es una celebración Mexicana donde cada año las familias se reúnen para honrar a sus ancestros y seres queridos del 31 de octubre al 2 de noviembre. El origen de esta celebración data cientos de años atrás cuando nativos Aztecas celebraban rituales durante el verano dedicados a la muerte.  Después de la colonización, las fechas de las festividades se cambiaron para coincidir con creencias post-colombinas como “la noche de todos los santos”.

Desde entonces, esta celebración ha sido acogida en diferentes partes del mundo y se centra en honrar, recordar y celebrar la vida de aquellos que ya han partido.

Nuestra comunidad, diferentes organizaciones y agencias, han celebrado con el distrito bibliotecario esta hermosa tradición por más de una década. En este evento en particular, el distrito bibliotecario ha creado un programa que, de forma intencional, descentraliza el poder de ideologías Eurocéntricas.

Este año la celebración familiar será en el Centro Comunitario Northside Atzlan (112 E. Willow St.) el viernes 2 de noviembre de 5:00 a 6:30 PM.

Invitamos cordialmente a la comunidad a celebrar esta hermosa tradición mexicana. El evento incluirá actividades para toda la familia: hora del cuento bilingüe, decoración de calaveras de azúcar, ofrendas, danza, mariachi y comida mexicana.

Ofrenda

La ofrenda o altar es un elemento fundamental en esta tradición, la cual es cuidadosamente creada en honor de los familiares o personajes ilustres fallecidos. Este año contaremos con una ofrenda cuidadosamente diseñada e instalada por Ludy Rueda, quien representa al distrito bibliotecario. Dicha ofrenda estará en exhibición del 24 de octubre al 4 de noviembre en el Museo del Descubrimiento de Fort Collins (408 Mason Ct.)

Es importante señalar que cada familia o individuo crea una ofrenda que es personal, compleja y que utiliza detalles y elementos que tienen un gran significado.  En la siguiente imagen encontrará un breve resumen de algunos de estos elementos y sus significados.

 

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Reptile Awareness Day

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

Happy Reptile Awareness Day!

What makes a reptile a reptile?

Reptiles are vertebrates with scaly, with dry, water-proof skin. They generally lay eggs with leathery shells, unlike the hard-shelled eggs of birds. Reptiles are poikilothermic, generally termed as “cold blooded,” which means they maintain their body temperature through external sources of heat such as basking in the sun. Reptiles that live in northern latitudes – such as those native to Colorado – will become dormant in winter: their bodily processes slow in the cold.

There are four orders of animal that make up the class Reptilia: Testudines (turtles), Squamata (lizards and snakes), Crocodylia (crocodiles and alligators), and Rhynchocephalia (tuataras). Turtles and crocodiles first appeared on earth along with the dinosaurs!

Reptiles live on all continents except Antarctica.

 

Meet FCMoD’s Reptiles:

Ball Python (Python regius)

 

Our Ball Python, named Slinky, is approximately 20 years old.  The oldest Ball Python on record lived to be 40 years! The species is native to sub-Saharan Africa. Ball Pythons often burrow underground to stay cool in the African heat. They also may cool themselves in pools of water.

This python is named “ball” because when threatened, it curls into a ball for protection, hiding its head and neck (the most vulnerable parts) in the middle of the ball. Ball Pythons are also called “Royal Pythons,” as there is a story that royalty in Africa would wear the snakes as jewelry, because the camouflage pattern on their scales is so beautiful.

 

Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornate)

Our Ornate Box Turtle, Tara, is a species native to Colorado and the Great Plains. She eats fruit and vegetables – she loves pear the most! – and insects. Turtles don’t have teeth, but instead a sharp beak that they can use to crunch through an insect’s exoskeleton or bite into a tough root.

Turtles have a shell that protects them from predators, made from keratin (the same thing our fingernails and hair is made from!). It is attached inside to their spine and ribs. Tara and other turtles (though not tortoises) are able to pull their legs and head completely inside the shell when threatened.

In a cold Colorado winter, Ornate Box Turtles will dig a hole in the ground and hibernate to survive.

 

Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius)

Our two Leopard Geckos are native to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India, where it is dry and rocky. It can get very hot there during the day, so they generally stay in the shade or in burrows while the sun is out. They are active at dawn and dusk when the temperature is more comfortable. As winter in that area can get quite cold, these geckos will stay underground the entire time and hibernate.

Leopard Geckos will hunt for insects, spiders and scorpions, as well as other lizards. A fascinating fact about them is that they are immune to scorpion stings! These reptiles keep their food reserve in their tails, which is why the tail looks so large compared with other lizards. When they are threatened by a predator, they can even drop their tail completely! The predator will be distracted by the tail while the gecko gets away. The tail eventually grows back.

Geckos use their tongues to clean their eyes. They will also use their tongues to figure out what is in the environment around them.

 

How you can celebrate Reptile Awareness Day!

  • Take some time to learn about reptiles! There are some amazing species out there, and the more we know about them the better humans and reptiles can live together.
  • Visit FCMoD and observe our reptiles in our Animal Encounters exhibit! Observing a reptile will help you understand and appreciate these amazing creatures.
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American Archives Month

Post written by staff members at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Did you know October is American Archives Month?

American Archives Month is a nationwide event that presents an opportunity to communicate to people that historical materials important to them are being properly preserved, cataloged, cared for, and made accessible by trained archivists, archives assistants, interns, and volunteers.

On October 16th, the Curator of the Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD), Lesley Struc, will attend the Fort Collins City Council Meeting for a special proclamation. Mayor Wade Troxell will proclaim October 2018 to be American Archives Month in the City of Fort Collins!

At Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the Archive serves as a free and open resource for people of all ages to learn about the local history of their families, homes, and communities, so we can understand and strengthen our collective memory and reflect on our shared past.

The Archive fosters discovery. Whether you are writing a research paper on local history, are interested in seeing what Old Town looked like 100 years ago, or are viewing local high school yearbooks – the Archive at FCMoD is the place to study firsthand facts, data, and evidence from letters, diaries, reports, scrapbooks, rare books, maps, newspapers, oral histories, and many other primary sources that elucidate the story of Fort Collins. No appointment is necessary to visit the Archive (open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm), but if you have specific questions, contact the Archive staff or Curator of the Archive prior to your visit so we can better assist you. Access to many resources from the Archive’s collection is also available through the Fort Collins History Connection website (history.fcgov.com), an online collaboration between the Poudre River Public Library District and FCMoD.

Celebrate American Archives Month by visiting the Archive at FCMoD today. What will you discover? For more information visit fcmod.org/research.

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