Archives, part 2: ‘It’s like putting a big puzzle together’
JEFF Myers is a life-long history nut and has been a volunteer for 10-plus years at the San Luis Valley Museum, located on Hunt Avenue in Alamosa. You know that corner building with the beautiful murals on the side? Yeah that one.
Over the last few months Jeff and I have had stimulating conversations about not only the term archive – for which he has a more direct interpretation – but also new ways to teach and learn history. As a historian and storyteller by passion and a biologist by trade, Jeff’s understanding of the natural world is extraordinary.
“It’s always so much fun to learn about history because it’s like putting a big puzzle together.” – Jeff Myers
More recently, he has stepped up for the betterment of the museum and is now the acting director, not just the administrative assistant. There is a lot to learn at the museum; it is not just a place for school field trips or research projects. During peak summer season the San Luis Valley has visitors from all over the world. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve of course is a big pull for summer tourists, and some have a continued interest in the culture and history of the area. How lucky we are to have an entire museum and volunteer staff to guide curiosity into knowledge.
Museums have a very specific way to organize and keep records. As Jeff says in The Creative Citizen: episode 8, part 2 podcast “This is called an accession,” basically a timeline of artifacts being added into an existing collection. Where did the Museum come from? Who started it? Where do these objects come from?
“(The museum) was founded and opened up by John and Dorothy Brandt along with help from Jo Bowers, Hazel Petty, different people like that. We have probably 10,000 artifacts that we have here but maybe only 2500 or so are actually cataloged correctly in accesson,” says Myers.
“Recently things that have come through the door that are really fascinating. We’ve done several programs this summer, one was from Rocky Mountain PBS and they did a piece on the Maestas Case, we were involved in that.
And summer 2021 we had Discovery Road with James Nelson here and we got to examine this beautiful old German Bible. They were doing a (Japanese) and German and Dutch documentary. So we got to see this beautiful German Bible that a lady from Monte Vista brought in and one of our fellows brought in a 1732 Dutch history book. That was unusual and rare to see.”
There are a number of new installments going on at the museum these days: new displays, donations, grants for expanding the collections, collaborations with local artists to display artwork in the main hall. View a preview of Colorado Voices via Rocky Mountain PBS HERE, where the SLV Museum is featured. (link for bold text:
“I think of an archive as being a book, or a manuscript or something in written form. For example we have an 1810 original first edition Zebulon Pike manual, that to me is an archive,” says Myers.
I have not had a chance to see this document in person but I do have my own small collection of first editions that have been gifted to me over the years, and it is remarkable to hold an object that is older than your great grandparents and thinking about what was going on in the world at that time. Old things are like their own time machine. Perspective is huge when it comes to understanding our surrounding context, wherever you are in the world, a small town, a city, a suburb… we can learn from one another about the past and that in turn can allow us to help one another lead us into the future.
The San Luis Valley Museum is going full steam into 2022. Keep up with the happenings and view their online database “Past Perfect” on Facebook, or just stop in and chat with Jeff or another volunteer who is on site.
Keep a look out for Part 3 of this series next Thursday, where Fred Bunch from the Great Sand Dunes takes me behind closed doors to view the natural collection at the visitors center.