A week filled with community Gift of History activities at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum included a special fundraising evening with in-person displays showing what is to come.

The major announcement about the 103-year-old former courthouse wasn’t the most romantic about what’s happening, but the most vital for the museum’s future, staff said.

Mayor John Suthers announced the city’s funding support for an HVAC heating and cooling system upgrade to support a “state-of-the-art storage system for priceless inventory” at the museum.

The museum has more than 70,000 artifacts and more than 6,000 square feet of archival material. Because only a tiny percentage of items, 1%-2%, can be on display at one time, everything in the storage collection must be protected. That’s where HVAC comes in, and work is starting immediately.

In 2019, the museum received its first major grant, almost $300,000, from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the new system. Fundraising proceeded from there.

Suthers, an avid history buff who teased he is now old enough to give oral histories, said, “It’s no secret the Pioneers Museum is a very special place.” He had gone there even as a youngster when it was first in the Knights of Columbus building near Penrose Library. The historic courthouse became available in 1973.

During the Gift of History fundraiser Aug. 4, the 200 guests had an opportunity to visit the nooks and crannies of the building, to learn the history and the future plans. The popular antique birdcage elevator was kept busy.

Among the museum’s areas was “Una Familia Grande: The Conejos Neighborhood Project” where former Conejos resident Josephine Ontiveros was hostess.

Projected for upcoming openings in 2023 or 2024 are four major exhibits: “Until Forever Comes, This is Ute Homeland” as told by the Ute people and artists; “Cultural Crossroads, History at the Foot of Pikes Peak;” “Change Makers, A History of Civil Rights in the Pikes Peak Region;” and “Women Artists of the Pikes Peak Region.”

Guests were treated to visits inside usually private storage areas, including the famous Van Briggle pottery collection and a Silver Vault, one of seven safes used for court records.

The Gift of History campaign week of activities was part of the museum’s projects to help recover after the COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions. The museum has a 2022 goal of 150,000 visitors, said Director Matt Mayberry, who was honored this year with an Award of Excellence by the American Association for State and Local History as a career transformative leader in the field of state and local history.

Visitors are invited into the museum during Food Truck Tuesdays, starting at 11 a.m. on the grounds at 215 S. Tejon St.

The Gift of History raised more than $73,000 toward a $100,000 goal and donations continue at cspm.org/giftofhistory.The Helen McCaffrey Charitable Trust matches each online donation up to $20,000.

Load comments