Aspen Historical Society goes new age with archive space |

Aspen Historical Society goes new age with archive space

Aspen Historical Society Curator Lisa Hancock holds up an artifact from the Victorian Period in their archival vault on Thursday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

community celebration

The Aspen Historical Society is hosting a grand opening for its renovated archive building.

When: 3-7 p.m.

Where: Wheeler/Stallard Museum grounds

What: free admission to museum, live music and food


3 p.m.: Children’s Living History Camp character performance

4 and 6 p.m.: Archieve building tours

5:30 p.m.: Ribbon cutting

More information:

New technology and security on the 129-year-old Wheeler/Stallard grounds are bringing the Aspen Historical Society into the 21st century.

Encased behind fireproof walls, a water-tight ceiling and a punchkey-coded door, the history of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley now is preserved in a climate-controlled environment with room for more of the area’s future to be stored away. To lessen the chance of sparking a fire, only LED lights were installed, heat comes in from the outside so there’s no potential fire source in the room and there’s just one electrical outlet in the 850-square-foot vault.

The doors to the updated facility will open to the public today as part of the community celebration for the $1 million capital campaign for renovations to the society’s archive storage, office space and community room and gallery.

The museum remains a place for people to learn about the area’s history, but there is plenty that goes on away from the Queen Anne-style house, which was built in 1888 by Jerome Wheeler then bought by Edgar and Mary Ella Stallard in 1917.

When someone doing research hits a road block, the Aspen Historical Society becomes a resource. Aspen is such a global town that the historical society gets calls from all over with questions.

“We have the largest archive in the region. With the amount of people who are doing research online these days around the world, this is such a big resource,” historical society development directory Kelly May said of the archives room. “The kinds of people we help are not always the kinds of people you would assume. Obviously there’s the genealogy, the (Historic Preservation Commission run by the city) comes to us with questions, developers come to us with questions. We’re a free public archive.

“Someone will call up and say, ‘I met a friend here in 1971 and they lived at this address, can you find them? All I have is their nickname.’ And (our staff) will find them.”

With the sounds of hammers and belt sanders in the background finishing up construction that started in October, curator Lisa Hancock said earlier this week the new space, which was last remodeled nearly 40 years ago, brings a sense of relief that the collection will be protected. She’s in charge of more than 55,000 items.

“The building opened in 1978, and it had never been upgraded,” Hancock said. “As curator in charge of the collection, my concern was old electrical and old plumbing and what that would do if we had an incident.”

Now safely housed downstairs are historic maps, ledgers, newspapers and photos. But there also are things such as Elizabeth Paepcke’s gardening hat and Andy Mill’s Olympic ski uniform. And the collection extends downvalley as the historical society has a 2,400-square-foot storage unit in Glenwood Springs to hold larger items.

As this effort finishes, the next step for the museum is a $2 million campaign to secure funds for programs, research and develop its collection.

The historical society got to the renovation project with donations ranging from $25 to $10,000, May said.

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