As parents, it’s on us to raise our children to be tolerant, loving, and kind so that we can, in turn, leave behind a more tolerant, loving, and kind world. One way to achieve this is by exposing kids to diverse ways of life. Here in Colorado, we have a number of cultural centers and museums with connections to the history of our state, where families can do just that.
Barney L. Ford escaped slavery in the 1800s and went on to become a successful entrepreneur and African American rights activist. His home in Breckenridge opened to the public in 2004 as a museum dedicated to local civil rights and the life of this incredible man and his family.
In the early 1900s, Dr. Justina Ford became Denver’s first female African American doctor. Today, the home in which she practiced and delivered countless babies is the site for the Black American West Museum. Located in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, this museum celebrates the black cowboys, farmers, miners, and others who helped develop the west into what it is today, with one permanent exhibit dedicated to Dr. Ford.
Located in the Four Corners region, Canyons of the Ancients Monument is a 176,000-acre area that’s been used by ancestral Puebloans for 10,000 years. Kids will enjoy learning about the area’s history and culture at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, which utilizes films, exhibits, and special events to educate the public about ancestral Native Americans and history of Anglo settlers.
This interactive museum allows visitors to walk through cliff dwellings in the architectural style of the Anasazi. Youngsters will love climbing into some of the smaller dwellings, and can learn more about the history of these Native American cultures in the adjacent Pueblo and Cave Museums.
To get a real up-close glimpse at how the Ancestral Puebloans lived, visit Mesa Verde National Park. Established in the early 1900s, this national park is home to roughly 5,000 archaeological sites dating all the way back to A.D. 600. While there, make sure to stop in at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, check out the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, and spend time in the Cliff Palace (open April to early November through ranger guided tours).
This cultural center was designed by the same architects behind the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and is both owned and operated by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Here kids will immerse themselves in past and present Ute culture via interactive electronics, photographic panels, military artifacts, life-size replicas (including a buffalo hide tipi and a school room), and a bear totem pole.
While Colorado’s current population is more than 80 percent white, its longest continuous residents are the Ute Indians. This museum is dedicated to educating the public about Ute history as well as modern-day Ute culture. You’ll also find Chief Ouray Memorial Park—Ouray was an important interpreter and negotiator in both Ute and Colorado history. The on-site museum shop features authentic Native American gifts, such as jewelry, beadwork, and Ute pottery.
Founded in 1978, the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC) Gallery and Cultural Center was created to give a voice and home to Chicano and Latino artists and their work. Visit their space to experience and expose little ones to music, dance, literature, and visual arts created by Denver’s creative Latino community.
Through ongoing exhibitions, lecture series, and other educational programming, this museum highlights the Pueblo region’s various ethnicities and cultures—nearly half of the local population is Latino. You’ll also find the excavation site of the original 1842 El Pueblo trading post and a re-creation of a trading post and plaza—important parts of Colorado history.
Each month, Museo de las Americas opens its doors to the public during the Santa Fe Art Walk. But there’s still plenty to see the rest of the time; this Latin American art museum rotates objects from their 3600-object permanent collection via on-site and traveling exhibitions. Museo also regularly hosts cultural workshops and a summer arts and culture camp.