Georgia Hanson: Guest opinion
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The Aspen Historical Society presence at Willoughby Park has sparked a number of varying opinions and, perhaps more poignantly, demonstrated the urgent need for us to shatter the myths that exist because of off-putting experiences at historical museums. The expectations reflected by letters to the editor and public hearing input bear no resemblance to the vision our team holds for the future. “Hanging old ski posters” or draping a 10th Mountain uniform on a mannequin is not remotely what we are about.
Additionally, I should note that our existence in the park is not contingent upon the approval or disapproval of the Lift One Master Plan. Eighty-two percent of the voters gave us the authority to have a museum on this site long before luxury hotels were part of the plan. We are grateful to the hotel developers for support offered to help us bring our museum to fruition. At the same time, it is important to note that the establishment of a museum is not “negotiable” within the context of the master plan currently before council. We are a stakeholder, not a contrived “perk” to be discarded in the hopes of excising height or mass elsewhere.
I invite you to imagine our museum as a bridge to the community itself. Museums can and should be community cornerstones. Good museums serve to transform the way people view the world. It is our duty to serve as a mirror, a reflection that allows our community to explore and celebrate its soul. It is not so much about the past as about the future ” conservation of environs (both physical and intellectual) is vital.
Just as the old Lift One ski path is the symbolic umbilical cord that connects our town with the mountain, so too our stories are the umbilical cord between the past, present and future. These stories and subsequent shared experiences are the portal between different worlds.
The familiar single point of view “Dead White Man Museum” approach to history is swiftly being replaced by multi-faceted thought-provoking exhibits that engage and challenge the visitor. The days of dusty artifacts and youth being reprimanded for “touching” are gone. The focus has shifted away from elitism and to true engagement and significant relevance with our audience. We pledge to provide a context that will teach awareness of consequences as part of the story-telling process. We will immerse you in wonder.
In keeping with the mind-body-spirit tradition, we will provide leadership in community-building by providing programming that involves our working class, our part-time locals, our retirees, our “day-time locals” and our visitors. We will create forums ” opportunities for civil dialogue ” on any subject germane to this valley. We share common values and our museum is the place to actively provide opportunities to embrace this concept and to experience the camaraderie and experimental solution seeking that is systemic in the soul of our town. We can’t wait!
The biggest lesson of the Lift One COWOP experience, for me, was an astonishment over how estranged many people feel from museums in general and from history as well. The affection and reverence for our sense of place is evident but there is no consensus on how to deliver the story. This entrenched refusal to bend ” to accommodate the value and lessons of the past AND to take advantage of new possibilities ” is astounding to me. I believe in digging deep to define shared values and then to act upon them for solutions. I learned that process here. I relish the opportunity to explore ways to integrate this message in our new museum.
We need to reach out to every level of our community and to engage all of you in the excitement we feel for this opportunity to introduce local history in a manner never envisioned or imagined “when we were kids.”
Can you imagine:
– Step into a pair of ski boots, lurch past the start wand and onto the course ” America’s downhill. A virtual route, complete with tear-inducing wind blowing in your face and bone-jarring landings.
– Lace up long thongs. You are at the top of the 1950 FIS route. Flying off of Niagara to the finish, immersed in virtual powder.
– Aspen State Teacher’s College has a new Student Union. The campus deck invites brown bag lunch parties and people watching.
– Familiar faces to meet and greet ” comfortable hang-time space, no pressure ” it’s like offseason all year round.
We will design student focused exhibits and forums that encourage them to experiment. We’ll provide real time results so they can discover the consequences of their decisions. Saluting the spirit of our own Aspen Institute, we will contribute to the creation of a community of critical thinkers.
We have a rich heritage rooted in our history, creativity, social fabric, natural setting and enlightened residents ” our characters. We are a major asset for this community’s future and expect to be instrumental players in shaping it. And on top of all else, we know that cultural heritage tourism empowers the economy while enriching our quality of life.
We welcome your thoughts and your participation as we move our museum(s) into a new dimension.
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