As Pioneers Museum Director Matt Mayberry says, Colorado Springs’ history is told one story at a time.
A Gift of History Breakfast crowd of 500 enthusiastic museum supporters on Aug. 21 heard about some of those stories that will be part of new permanent exhibits in commemoration of the city’s 2021 sesquicentennial celebration.
First up, opening Sept. 14, is “Evidence: Finding the Facts about Gen. William Jackson Palmer.” Interesting, very human facts about the general and his family were unearthed at an archaeological dig, the Palmer Trash Dump, said archivist Leah Davis Witherow.
“You really get to know a person when you read their diaries and go through the trash,” she said, laughing.
Two other exhibits follow, in 2020 and 2021, the first on the special community of Conejos Street, where American the Beautiful Park is today. “We had been asked where the Hispanic heritage is, their story,” said Witherow. “This is it, ‘Una Familia Grande, The Conejos Neighborhood Project,’ and it is fascinating.”
That area was filled with love, laughter, food and families, said Witherow.
For Josephine Ontiveros, it was home, in a house right beside the tracks, provided by her father’s employer, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The 47-year D-11 educator fondly remembers her mother asking what to do about the men coming to their back door asking for food. “Feed everyone,” was their father’s response. If they ran out of food, the kids were sent to Rio Grande Grocery and Market, the center of their community, for more.
“One day,” Ontiveros remembers, “our community disappeared,” with only Chadbourn Gospel Mission left standing.
Mayberry told guests that the two-year American Alliance of Museums Best Practices accreditation process was complete, with compliments about the “museum seeking and responding to input from the community and incorporating that information into its exhibitions and program offerings.”
More than 112,000 people visited the museum in 2018.