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Aspen Historical Society taking it to the streets

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
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ASPEN -The Aspen Historical Society is preparing to take local history to the streets. In fact, it already is.Georgia Hanson, the society’s president and CEO, briefly outlined the society’s vision for the future – one that includes a museum without walls – during Wednesday’s Aspen Business Luncheon at the Hotel Jerome. And, three local actors presented their version of taking history to the streets with a presentation of “A Briefly Complete History of Aspen,” billed as 130 years of local history presented in 45 minutes.Volunteer Lee Sullivan and society staff members Nina Gabianelli and Michael Monroney have been presenting the whirlwind, Vaudeville-style synopsis of Aspen history to school children and anyone else who requests a performance.It is but one example of the society reaching outside the box of a museum.Hanson envisions a day when a visitor to Willoughby Park, the old Lift One site at the base of Aspen Mountain, can stroll beneath a tree and trigger a recording of local skiwear icon Klaus Obermeyer giving his signature yodel.The technology exists to stand on an Aspen street corner and call up a picture of what it looked like a century ago on a cell phone, she said.An estimated 3 to 5 percent of the general population will visit a museum, according to Hanson.”We’re taking our message to the streets. We want to reach the other 95 percent,” she explained.”We are breaking down the barriers that come with velvet ropes and dioramas. We’ll be hands-on. We’ll say, ‘please touch,'” Hanson said.The Aspen Historical Society, which already oversees the Wheeler/Stallard Museum and Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum, as well as two outlying historical sites – the ghost towns of Ashcroft and Independence – is embarking on a “Vision for 2020.” It may include a museum dedicated to recent Aspen history at Willoughby Park. Storytelling all over town is but another aspect of the plan.The society is also preparing to launch a fundraising campaign for a $1.5 million overhaul of the Carriage House at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum in order to better protect the archived resources housed there. An extensive collection of photographs, and local newspapers that date back to the 19th century, are but two examples of those resources.The archival collection is “incredible,” Hanson said.”You can actually listen to Albert Schweitzer give his speech in 1949, provided you speak German,” Hanson told the lunch crowd. The renowned humanitarian made his landmark visit to the then-little known town of Aspen to deliver the keynote speech at the Goethe Bicentennial.janet@aspentimes.com


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