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Aspen exhibit: transportation history 101

Katharine Weiss
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Complete with a Halloween costume, a license plate collection and a pair of purple pumps, the Aspen Historical Society is tracing transportation through the years in its new exhibition, “Go West Young Man, But Park at the Intercept Lot.”

The presentation covers transportation in Aspen “before the white men got here” all the way to current issues such as the Entrance to Aspen, according to Tom Egan, communications director for the historical society.

“We would love for people to come away realizing how important transportation has been to Aspen’s history,” Egan said. “Getting here for the original prospectors was a huge undertaking.”



The idea for the exhibition came from much banter among the staff, Egan said.

“Your car will start and you’ll be able to go 20 miles to work in a half an hour, but if transportation didn’t become what it has become, our whole society [would be] dramatically different,” he said. “It just seemed to touch all of us because it touches all of our lives so regularly.”



But the story of transportation in Aspen covers more than vehicles.

“Aspen’s history is full of characters and of humor and irreverence,” Egan said. “[Irreverence] is one of our driving words that we try to keep in mind as we do many things here at the society. Aspen in its makeup has a streak of irreverence in it, on the fun side. We want to try and show that as much as we can.”

Although Egan hopes that all ages and all demographics visit the exhibition, the society is making a special effort to engage youngsters.

“I think your average museum-goer tends to be a little older,” he said. “We would love to begin to attract a younger audience and to get them excited about Aspen’s diverse history. Pretty much everything we do, we would really love to hook some young people and get them interested in history.”

Lisa Hancock, the historical society’s curator of collections, believes that an exhibition on transportation is especially important in Aspen.

“It boils down to the fact that, with our terrain in the mountains … we have transportation issues that very few communities have,” she said. “Everything from having a path train through Independence Pass to the modern day commutes of downvalley.”

Egan said this exhibition is particularly distinctive because it includes a carbon footprint to represent the environmental impact for each mode of transportation, a purple pair of heels to represent the years before vehicular transportation, and a Halloween costume that represents a critical issue in Aspen ” even if it is a bit out of season.

“I just think that that the Halloween costume speaks volumes about a lot of the things we talk about such as Aspen’s irreverence, Aspen’s creativity, and Aspen’s ability to make fun of its self,” Egan said.

“Go West Young Man, But Park at the Intercept Lot” opened June 10 at Aspen’s Wheeler/Stallard House museum and will run through the end of the year.


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