Written by Gabrielle Bates
Edited by Sereen Suleiman and Lauren Kime
I would like to bring your attention to the wonderful city of Denver, specifically the Denver Public Library. Designed by architect Michael Graves, the Denver Public Library is rich in history and is filled with rooms for community activities and museum-quality displays. In fact, the library was one of the first in the country to have a children’s collection. Inside, the library has 7 levels, and only 5 are open to the public. Two of these levels hold vital collections: Blair-Caldwell African American Research and the 10th Mountain Division.
In 1999, then-Mayor Webb decided to spearhead a project to preserve African-American contributions to Colorado and the surrounding area. By 2000, a committee was formed to construct the collection. It would go on to be named after two local activists: Omar Blair, the first Black president of the Board of Education, and Elvin Caldwell, Denver’s first Black City Council member. The library staff collected art, photographs, personal collections, audio/visual history, and anything else that would complement the future collection. $16 million and three years later, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library opened to the public. This collection houses materials from notable figures such as Wellington E. Webb, Elvin Caldwell, Hiawatha Davis, King Trimble, Arie Taylor, Edna Mosley and Ada Evans.
Introducing the next collection, it’s interesting to note that before Aspen welcomed skiers worldwide, the city’s mountains were used to train the Army’s 10th Light Division. In 1943 soldiers were trained at Camp Hale to navigate dangerous slopes and arctic weather before being sent out to fight in WWII. After the war, this division was disbanded, but it was a short-lived break. By 1958, the division had been deactivated, reactivated, and renamed twice. In 1985, it was reactivated again and renamed the 10th Mountain Division. Many members of the 10th Mountain Division went on to develop ski tourism in the Colorado area. In fact, Vail Ski Resort was founded by a 10th Mountain Division veteran. Roughly 2,000 of these veterans opened ski schools and became ski instructors. Today the Division is still going strong in Fort Drum, New York.
Veterans donated (and continue to donate) orders, photographs, maps, scrapbooks, training films, uniforms, climbing equipment and personal letters. This collection is primarily used for research purposes as part of the Western History and Genealogy Repository. The library is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM, and Saturdays from 10 AM to 5 PM. Much of the oral history is available on their YouTube channel.