Step Into The Story

The History Colorado Center’s exhibitions blend artifacts, technology, media, and environments to spark curiosity and ignite the imagination. Take a joy ride across the eastern plains in a real Model T in Destination Colorado. Soar off Steamboat Spring’s Howelsen Hill on a virtual ski jump in Colorado Stories. Experience the epic “Black Sunday” dust storm of the 1930s Dust Bowl in Living West.

This summer explore Colorado’s stories like never before in the NEW exhibition Backstory:Western American Art in Context, sponsored by the Sturm Family Foundation.

Albert Bierstadt’s magnificent landscapes, Frederic Remington’s exuberant bronzes, the Taos painters’ colorful scenes of the Southwest: you may know some of these legendary artworks, but what are the stories behind them? 

Artists of the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries captured the landscapes and people of a rapidly changing West—as events set in motion dynamics that still shape the region to this day. Backstory pairs nearly 50 masterpieces from the Denver Art Museum’s renowned collection with History Colorado’s wealth of artifacts to tell the stories of these artists and their times.

Backstory marks a new collaboration with a neighboring institution, the Denver Art Museum. Senior Curator of Artifacts Alisa DiGiacomo points out, post–Civil War objects like surveyors’ instruments, broadsides advertising free land, and railroad artifacts show that people weren’t just pushed west by war, but pulled west by the promise of homesteading and the chance to see this heralded land for themselves. Works by painters like Albert Bierstadt gave hope to war-weary eastern audiences by capturing grand imagery of the West—a land Bierstadt himself called a “wellspring of amazement and wonder” and an “American Garden of Eden.” Other artifacts speak to the people already here: American Indian tribes and a Hispanic population moving north into today’s Colorado.

See the art. See the artifacts. Get the backstory.

Located in the heart of Denver, the History Colorado Center is open daily from 10am to 5pm and features a gift shop and café. For more information and tickets call 303/HISTORY, or visit


Albert Bierstadt, Estes Park, Long's Peak, 1877. Oil on canvas; 62 x 98 inches. Lent by the Denver Public Library, Western History Department. 35.2008

Broadside, Akron Pioneer Press Printing Co., 1890. History Colorado. 2012.62.1

Frank Tenney Johnson, The Trail Boss, 1920. Oil on canvas; 30 x 20 1/4 inches. Denver Art Museum. 2013.107

Spurs of John M. Kuykendall, 1880–90. History Colorado. H.13.1


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08 May 2017

By James Jackman