Mindful Mondays: Celebración del Día de Muertos

Post written by Katie Auman from Poudre River Public Library District, originally posted October 17, 2019.

Celebración y Ofrenda del Día de Muertos

“La cultura es lo que, en la muerte, continúa siendo la vida.”

El día de muertos es una celebración de México y Latinoamérica donde cada año las familias se reúnen el 1 y 2 de noviembre para honrar a sus ancestros y seres queridos. El origen de esta celebración data cientos de años atrás cuando los 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.

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. 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.

 

Altares en miniatura para niños y familias

Es fácil crear un altar en miniatura del Día de Muertos inspirado en los altares más grandes que verán en las celebraciones tradicionales. Con este proyecto de “hágalo usted mismo”, podrá construir un altar incorporando los elementos tradicionales de una ofrenda con su toque personal, pero en un espacio más pequeño como una caja de zapatos.

Material:

  • Caja de zapatos
  • Papel construcción o papel de envoltura para cubrir su caja
  • Marcadores, crayones o pintura
  • Tela
  • Tijeras
  • Pegamento, cinta adhesiva o engrapadora
  • Vela
  • Flores / Cempazuchitl
  • Papel Picado
  • Calaveras de Azúcar
  • Fotografía de su ser querido
  • Vaso con agua
  • Algo para comer
  • Objetos de especial interés para su ser querido

Si no tiene estos artículos, ¡deje volar su imaginación! Haga sus propias flores con papel y dibuje sus decoraciones.

Paso 1

Utilice tela, papel construcción, marcadores, etc. para decorar la caja de zapatos en colores como morado, rosa mexicano, naranja y rojo. Cubra el interior y el exterior de la caja de zapatos.

Paso 2

Coloque una foto del ser querido que está honrando en el centro de la caja. Llene la caja con artículos que le recuerden a esa persona. Cualquier elemento puede ser una ofrenda – fotos, objetos de especial interés de su ser querido, pertenencias, etc.

Paso 3

Decore los espacios vacíos de la caja y añada alimentos o dulces.

Paso 4

Decore la orilla de la caja con flores, velas, papel picado y un pequeño vaso de agua. Estos elementos representan los cuatro elementos: la tierra, el fuego, el viento y el agua.

 

 

Día de Muertos Celebration

“Culture is what, in death, continues to be life.”

The Day of the Dead / Día de Muertos is an annual Mexican and Latin American celebration when families gather to honor the memory of deceased loved ones on 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.

Traditional Altar Display

One of the most visual parts of the Día de Muertos tradition is the altar, a carefully crafted centerpiece of the annual celebration. Each family or individual’s Día de 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.

 

DIY Shoebox Altar for Kids and Families

It’s easy to create a Día de Muertos miniature altar modeled after the larger altars you’ll see at traditional celebrations. You can still follow the requirements of an authentic altar and personalize it, but in a smaller space. This is a great DIY craft for kids!

What you’ll need:

  • A shoebox
  • Construction paper or wrapping paper to cover your box
  • Markers, crayons, or paint
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Glue, tape, or stapler
  • Candle
  • Flowers / Cempazuchitl
  • Tissue paper / Papel Picado
  • Sugar Skull / Calaveras de Azúcar
  • A photograph of your loved one
  • A small glass with something to drink
  • Something to eat
  • Offerings (items of particular interest to your loved one)

If you don’t have these items, feel free to think outside the box and get creative! Create orange marigold flowers/cempazuchitl flowers out of paper or cut out and color your own decorations.

Step 1

Use your fabric, construction paper, markers, etc. to decorate the shoebox in colors like purple, pink, orange, and red. Cover the inside and the outside of the shoebox.

Step 2

Place a photo of your loved one you are honoring in the center of the box. Fill the box with items that remind you of that person. Any item can be an ofrenda – photos, objects, anything.

Step 3

Fill the remaining space in the shoebox with décor and add other treats and foods.

Step 4

Surround the box with flowers, candles, tissue paper, and small glass of water. These items represent the four elements of earth, fire, wind, and water.

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Mindful Mondays: The Feelings Volcano

Mindful Mondays: The Feelings Volcano

This activity is recommended for ages 5-11.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a strong emotion? Maybe you were angry with a friend for taking your favorite book, or frustrated that you couldn’t figure out that math problem? We all have strong feelings sometimes, and that’s okay! Try this is a twist on the classic baking soda-and-vinegar volcano experiment, and explore why it’s important to express and regulate our emotions in healthy ways!

Supplies:

  • Empty plastic bottle or 8 oz cup 
  • Measuring cup 
  • Funnel 
  • 1 tbsp baking soda 
  • Distilled white vinegar 
  • Food coloring (if desired) 

Instructions:

  1. To get ready: Place the baking soda in the empty plastic bottle or 8 oz cup using the funnel. 
  2. Think about a time when you were overwhelmed by a strong emotion (feeling sad, embarrassed, mad, nervous, etc.). Talk with your grown up about what happened. What happened to make you feel this way? What did you do about it?
  3. Pour a little bit of vinegar into the measuring cup. (Add food coloring if desired). This vinegar represents the feelings you had in your story. Now, let’s say that instead of expressing your feelings and doing something to manage them, you let them keep building and building and building up inside of you!
  4. Add more vinegar “feelings” to the cup until it reaches the ½ cup mark. What do you think will happen when you act on your feelings by adding the vinegar to the baking soda?
  5. Pour the vinegar into the baking soda. What happened? All of those sour feelings came out!
  6. Time for another experiment! What if instead of letting those sour feelings build up, you did something to manage them? Maybe you talked to your grown up about how you were feeling, or maybe you took some long, deep breaths! When you take steps to manage them, your feelings aren’t so sour anymore – they’re more like water than vinegar! What do you think will happen if you add water to baking soda?
  7. Pour the water into the baking soda. What happened? This time, we didn’t let our emotions get the best of us!
  8. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings! They’re part of being human. But it’s important that we learn how to express and manage our feelings so that we can control them instead of them controlling us. Work with your grown up to make a list of ways you can express and manage your emotions in hard situations, when you sense a feelings volcano brewing! Some ideas you might include: 
  • Take 10 slow, deep breaths. 
  • Draw or write about your feelings. 
  • Talk about your feelings with a friend, family member, or teacher. 
  • Dance to your favorite song.  
  • Stretch your body. 
  • Hang your strategies up somewhere to reference throughout the year! 

 

Each mind matters. Taking care of our mental health is important to all of us – everywhere and always. Learn more by visiting FCMoD’s special exhibition Mental Health: Mind Matters, open through January 10th.

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Mindful Mondays: Let’s Talk About It!

Mindful Mondays: Let’s Talk About It!

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD) is honored to bring the groundbreaking traveling exhibition Mental Health: Mind Matters to our community from October 3, 2020- January 10, 2021. With the generous support of our community partners this exhibit and the museum are free during the run of this exhibit 

In the fall of 2018, FCMoD secured this exhibit knowing that mental health would be a timely topic for our community. And while this topic was important two years ago, the need for us as individuals, neighbors, parents, children, community members and community leaders to engage in conversation about mental health and mental illness has only grown.

Between the COVID-19 public health crisis, economic recession, wildfires, and unrest around racial justice, the year 2020 has given us all our share of challenges. Although uncertainty and difficulties still walk with us through this time, so do the threads of hope and greater resiliencyThis year, we found new ways to connect with one another, had opportunities to challenge assumptions and reframe narratives, and refocused areas in our lives that we find to be most important. This exhibit provides yet another opportunity to step into a conversation that touches all of our lives, in an environment that is safe, welcoming and hopeful. 
 

Mental Health: Mind Matters is an interactivetrilingual exhibit that provides experiences for visitors of all ages to help open the door for greater understanding, conversations and empathy toward the challenges of mental health. Walking through the exhibit you will have the opportunity to engage with empathy-building experience like hearing from people – in their own words – about how mental illness affects their lives. Interactives like noise-distorting headphones help visitors experience the difficulties some people have with symptoms of psychosis. Another interactive lets you dance around to learn about the connection between physical activity and mental wellnessTest your knowledge with a multi-player quiz about common misperceptions around mental illnesses and mental health. Anchored toward the back of the exhibit, you can check out a resource area that includes both children and adult activities, books and other helpful resources on mental health. Don’t forget to visit the Worry Shredder to shred your worries away! These are just some of the many incredible experiences in this remarkable exhibit. 
 

Working with our community partners, FCMoD will feature virtual and in-person programming throughout the dates of this exhibit. Forest therapy walks encourage participants to relax in nature. FCMoD’s virtual lecture series, Discovery Live, offers opportunities to hear from the mental health experts in our community and learn about the amazing work their organizations are doing. Programming in the museum’s gallery demonstrates different mindfulness techniques and relaxation activities. Visit fcmod.org to find the programs that resonate with you and learn how to take this conversation to the next level. 

As you consider visiting FCMoD, we want you to know about our deep commitment to keeping you safe during your visit. Gallery hosts regularly clean the museum throughout the day, with special attention to high-touch areas. All visitors over the age of two to are required to wear a face covering, and contact information will be requested at the beginning of the visit to help with contact tracingAlthough the museum is free through January 10, ticket reservations are required to help manage capacity and appropriate physical distancing. Groups 15 should contact the museum to reserve blocks of tickets. Ticketing information is available on the Plan Your Visit webpage. 

 

To stay informed on the latest Mental Health: Mind Matters programs and experiences, visit the Mind Matters webpage and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Don’t forget to tag us in your experiences when you visit the museum to help us #MakeItOk. 

We look forward to welcoming you to FCMoD to experience this amazing exhibit!  

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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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Battery A: Bound for Europe

Camp Merritt (in New Jersey) was the final stateside station for Colorado’s WWI Battery A soldiers. On January 23, 1918, they boarded the steamship Baltic, bound for Europe.  After a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they set forth on January 27, escorted by a British cruiser (and later in the journey, eight destroyers). These precautions were necessary to ward off U-boat attacks.

On February 5, 1918, the artillerymen witnessed the sinking of the troopship Tuscania by UB77 off the Irish coast. The Doughboy Center website (http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/tuscania.htm) tells us that “The Tuscania was the first ship carrying American troops to be sunk, and public opinion in the USA regarded its loss as an outrage.”

Hurdle’s scrapbook page shows a typical transport convoy; the Prince George; and a shot of the Tuscania taken from the Baltic.

 

The soldiers disembarked at Liverpool, traveled by train across England, then across the English Channel. Heavy seas were running, and “packed like sardines,” the men uniformly became seasick before finally setting foot in France. In a letter home, John Hurdle discussed the seasickness – and a dubious remedy for it – on the trip across the Atlantic:

“We went on the boat in the afternoon, and before midnight had several cases of seasickness while the boat was still tied tip to the pier. … One of the boys in B Battery had a sure method of preventing seasickness [eating onions]. … But let me give you a tip—if you ever take a sea voyage, don’t eat onions, and don’t let any of your associates eat them, because they don’t help any…”

 

Two days of discomfort riding in boxcars on French railroads brought the regiment to Camp de Souge, where it spent the next two months in additional training. The highlight came when the regiment received its artillery piece, the 155 mm Grande Puissance Filloux (GPF).  John Hurdle’s gun crew called their GPF “Gila Monster,” and Hurdle would later give a very extensive description of its use in the war. Here’s a picture of it, labelled “My gun, ready to move, in position.”

 

Post by Doug Ernest.

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WWII POWs in Colorado

Did you know that during WWII German prisoners-of-war were held at a camp just west of Greeley on Highway 34? POWs from Camp 202 were dispatched to farms in Larimer (and Weld) counties, often to bring in the sugar beets. The camp housed about 3,000 prisoners (about 2,500 were held in the camp in Trinidad; 12,000 in Colorado Springs).

 

 

The Archive has a booklet called World War II German Prisoners of War in Larimer & Weld Counties (published by the Pioneer Association in 2011; cover photo above), which includes recollections of local area residents of their interactions with the POWs. Below is my favorite story from this booklet, titled “Remembering Mr. Helmke,” by Ruth Wagner Haake (trust me, you’ll be glad you read it to the end).

 

If you’d like to learn more about WWII POWs in northern Colorado, you can:

  • Read Janet Worrall’s lecture (a Fort Collins Historical Society Program from 1995)
  • Visit the Camp 202 website which includes pictures of the site as it looks today
  • Learn about the preservation of the Camp 202 site at Colorado Preservation, Inc
  • Flip through the vertical files “LC – Military – POW Camps” and “CO – Military” at FCMoD’s Local History Archive
  • See the original (1944) beet field manifests from this camp at the Local History Archive

And for personal recollections about WWII in general, check out this page – our World War II Oral History Excerpts, on the History Connection website.

 

Post by Jenny Hannifin

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Pictures at an Exhibition

Visiting a new exhibit at a museum can be a moment of perfection. Freshly painted walls, meticulously hung pieces, descriptive text, and targeted lighting all combine to create an experience that takes the viewer to a new place and offers a fresh perspective on the world.

But believe us when we say that getting there is quite a journey!

Here are a few pictures of the assembly process going on right now at FCMoD for the upcoming exhibit Earth from Space, opening November 18.

Exhibit panels freshly printed and laid out to dry.

This exhibit – part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) – features spectacular satellite imagery collected over the past 30 years which allows us to observe oceans, mountains, land surfaces, and human activity with a unique perspective. Rare views of events such as dust storms, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes are accompanied by text that explains how satellite imagery is gathered and utilized. Included in the exhibit is a digital video globe that displays global processes such as ocean temperature and weather patterns.

Museum staff install a vinyl image in one of the exhibit’s window alcoves.

Come see Earth from Space, at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, opening November 18.

Museum staff prep an exhibit component for installation.
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