DENVER — The soon-to-be former state historian is criticizing History Colorado’s recent choices of exhibits, calling them “history lite.”
Patty Limerick wrote an editorial in Sunday’s Denver Post, claiming the exhibits do little to tell the state’s full story.
“The current exhibits, as well as the ones on the near horizon, do little to provide historical understandings of issues that concern Coloradans today,” Limerick wrote.
Currently, History Colorado features several exhibitions, including a display of baseball memorabilia, a Lego recreation of parts of the state of Colorado and an exhibit featuring 100 interesting items in the museum’s collection.
The museum is also reportedly planning exhibits on the state’s history with beer and marijuana.
In the editorial, Limerick accuses the museum of avoiding controversial topics, opting for easier, less involved stories.
“It doesn't in my opinion add up to a whole lot,” said Harold Skramstad, a former museum director and retired museum consultant. “It's just one little snippet of Colorado history then you get other little snippets around in the museum.”
Skramstad said the issue is likely financial. Exhibits cost millions of dollars so they are difficult to experiment with to see what works.
“I think history museums, many of them been on the decline and I think a lot of them were really grasping at straws, what's relevant, what's in,” he said. “Yes, every history museum wants to be relevant, but, what the hell, history is extremely relevant. It's just how you use the various levers and skills.”
History Colorado has seen success, though, with its recent exhibits. The museum says Play Ball has drawn in many baseball fans. Zoom In and Backstory were also lauded for their success.
A day after Limerick’s editorial was released, History Colorado announced it was replacing her job with a panel of several other historians.
The museum wouldn’t respond on camera to Limerick’s editorial. Instead releasing this statement to Next:
“The Board and staff of History Colorado are enthusiastic about the new direction we have taken with the State Historians Council. Every Colorado community has a story to tell, and these five respected historians will significantly enhance our ability to gather and tell those stories to the rest of Colorado. This Council is the latest example of the exciting and important progress we are making in doing good history and helping Coloradans connect to our past in meaningful ways. Our rising attendance numbers across the system, our commitment to telling Colorado stories in our exhibits, our contemporary collecting initiative, and the opening (and positive reviews for) Backstory, the new Ute Indian Museum, El Movimiento, Zoom In, the Colorado Center for Women's History, Borderlands, and Play Ball all demonstrate that History Colorado is on a positive and exciting trajectory.”