Historical society looks to improve archives | AspenTimes.com

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Historical society looks to improve archives

The Aspen Historic Society's archive building holds a treasure trove of items that tell many stories about Aspen's past. Anna Scott, left, is an archivist for the society and holds a pair of cane woven snowshoes from circa 1950, while Megan Cerise, an archive technician, holds a red, white and blue U.S. Ski Team uniform from 1972 that was worn by Whit Sterling. The pink velvet coat in the background was owned and worn by Elizabeth Paepcke.

The city of Aspen has a storied past that locals can relate to every day they look at the local mountains or historic homes and buildings. From the early mining days to the booming present, the mountain lifestyle and its days of yore are a source of pride to those who live here.

The Aspen Historical Society is the official caretaker of Aspen's past, preserving thousands of images and historical records at the society's headquarters on West Bleeker Street in Aspen.

"We have so many objects, artifacts and pictures to an extent that people don't realize how much we have here," said Christine Benedetti, the marketing director for the society. "We have so many items here that tell the history of Aspen. We're trying to raise money to preserve those items and continue to tell that story for the people who live here and those who come to visit."

The society is currently running a capital campaign with a goal of raising $3 million, with half the money slated for improvements to the archive building, which was once a carriage house on the West Bleeker property. The other half of the money raised would go toward an endowment fund the society wants to build up.

"It's not like our facility is any danger," Benedetti said. "It's just time to bring the facility up to higher standards and make it more accessible to the public."

Kelly Murphy, the CEO and executive director of the society, said the goal is to take the facility to the next level.

"I feel we've done a great job with Aspen's treasures," Murphy said. "Now it's time to modernize the archive building."

The archive building has Aspen artifacts and records stored on two floors, with the basement packed from wall to wall with items ranging from clothing to hard copies of historic newspapers and legal documents to antique toys, furniture and sporting equipment.

The society uses several storage saver units that act as large storage shelves. The shelving units can be rolled together to save space and rolled apart to gain more access. The society would like to add more items like the storage savers to increase capacity and make more space at the same time.

"We're looking to upgrade our electrical and fire-suppression systems," Murphy said. "We also want to eliminate all water sources around the archives. We've really used the space we have the best we could, but it's time to create some new space."

There's currently an advantage to donating to the society because of an anonymous donor who agreed to match up to $100,000 in donations per year for five years. This year is the second year of the five-year donation cycle, and the $100,000 mark hasn't been reached yet in 2014.

"This is a wonderful matching opportunity," Benedetti said. "We haven't publicly brought that forward, but doubling a donation is hard to argue with."

In addition to the archive building upgrades, the society would also like to create a public meeting area. Currently, the society's only option for a meeting space is the Wheeler Stallard Museum.

"That limits us to the group size we can have right now," Benedetti said. "A new meeting space would allow us to have children's groups, adult programs and other special events, which would be a huge benefit for us."

The AspenHistory.org website is constantly being upgraded with new information. If the archives area is accessed, there are six options where one can find access to marriage, cemetery and census records, photos, newspapers, oral history directories and more.

"We have links to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection," said Anna Scott, an archivist for the society. "We worked with the Pitkin County library and digitized 14 different Aspen publications that are now available online. In our photo gallery, we have more than 10,000 images that are keyword searchable."

Anyone wishing to donate to the society can visit http://www.aspenhistory.com and access the "store" link, or call 970-925-3721 for more information.