By Madeleine Ahlborn |

WHEN I started this podcast and portrait series about local artists less than a year ago, I really didn’t address the history of the San Luis Valley. So I wanted to highlight the actual art form of caring for history, artifacts, culture and the beauty it brings to our everyday life. In fact, how as a society, we tend to look into the past to move forward. 

So episode 8 of The Unexpected Artist podcast is a bit different from the rest. Since October 2021 I have been visiting with different folks around the San Luis Valley to discuss the term Archives. What they are, what  they do, and what they mean. 

Part one of this archive exploration brings the microphone to Corey Hubbard, owner and operator of The General Specific Store located on main street in Del Norte. You will also hear from Jeff Myers, acting director of the San Luis Valley Museum here in Alamosa, and Fred Bunch, chief of resource management from our own Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.  

If you have not yet explored The General Specific Store on main street in Del Norte, I highly recommend it. There is this wondrous atmosphere that has been created with odes to the past and a modern “panache,” as JD Kettle wrote in an Alamosa Citizen article when the General Specific Store first opened its doors to the community.

Interior of General Specific Store

Photo by Ryan Michelle Scavo

WHEN we think about Archive normally we believe it to be a space holding records, documents, or files with some kind of profound historical value. But what about family heirlooms? Personal collections? Corey speaks about a sense of emotional memory that is all around us all the time, and especially present in her line of work, which is not just a job for her. In the few hours we’ve spent together talking about history and experience, Corey very much carries a high level of passion for the past, and a deep responsibility to uphold a connection with the sense of place. 

The abundance of “Newness” that is being pumped out in our country is greater than ever. Being able to save and preserve the past of discarded items can actually build up a life while simultaneously bringing a community of people together. 

The General Specific Store is very much a place where you can enter, peruse, explore, read, daydream and simply live freely without the pressure to purchase. The experience of the space is the take-home for zero cost. 

“Common people doing extraordinary things” 

“Civilization to me is equated with innovation and creation so being discontented with your current station will give you a hell of a lot of inspiration. The hungrier you are, the more uncertain, the more confused, this can really become a birthplace of strange ideas.” 

“This inanimate object flooded me with this extraordinary striking concept that I can be in a sense in this physical presence of someone that had fought in that conflict.” 

-Corey Hubbard

The San Luis Valley is not just a place to move. I think many people – myself included – live here with intention and purpose. For those people and families that are generational, perhaps there is a sense of duty or legacy to uphold. These are the stories that make up this very special place we call home, our communities across this vastness are very much filled with common people doing and creating extraordinary things.

Physical objects that hold significant value, the smell, the texture, the overall feel – now this is a type of archive. The chairs we sat in looking over main street, imagine the meals and conversations that took place around these objects. By recognizing and paying homage in some way to these inanimate objects we are keeping history alive and also creating history at the same time. 

“Beautiful average” 

My friend that I moved here with used to joke that “You can’t just live in The San Luis Valley, you have to survive here.” It’s not just finding a job and making a living, but also just being a human and surviving on a basic level: water, food, shelter, and warmth. The pure nature of being a human is very much on the forefront of my mind as a citizen in my community. I take stock everyday of my surroundings and make observations of the big picture of what this place/space really means. 

“If art truly is a comment or a movement that hasn’t been before, then we count.”

“…I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” – Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem 

We are very much our own mini-archive, we have possessions, we create, we record, we pass along history and value to those around us and to our surrounding environment. I think this quote by Joan Didion is powerful in the sense of remaining on this sort of speaking terms. This statement encompasses upholding the past of self, because who are we really, if we forget who we were? 

A huge thanks to my comrade Corey Hubbard for the work she is doing in Del Norte.

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