The fresh remake connects art and innovation and adds a component for children
By Katherine Nettles
The Museum of Boulder’s recent evolution from a traditional history museum to something more, well, Boulder, is a tremendous bright spot for the city. The museum reopened at its new location on Broadway in May with a well-received start, offering highly interactive exhibits that appeals to youth and adults alike. These include the Discover NASA, Sportsology and Boulder Bounce exhibits, as well as a beautiful two-part feature exhibit on the machine and robotic works of Leonardo da Vinci, which ran through July 29.
The museum reboot seeks ways to tie the world at large to Boulder County’s spirit of innovation. It chose da Vinci for an opening act, not to focus on his art, but his ingenuity and his drive to find solutions to difficult problems, and continues to focus on the intersections of art and ingenuity.
The journey from the museum’s former location began in 2006 and culminated when it finished the $5 million renovation of a former Masonic Lodge this spring. The new locale is much larger, more open, and within walking distance to Pearl Street Mall. But perhaps most significantly, it is now a very different kind of museum.
“We’ve expanded our scope,” says executive director Nancy Geyer. “We are moving from a museum that primarily focuses on the early history of our area to a museum that represents all things Boulder—past, present and future.”
Geyer has been with the museum since 2001, through the ups and downs of the relocation and repurposing process that began in earnest in 2006 and involved an $11.3 million campaign. Geyer describes the museum’s new iteration as more encompassing of Boulder’s penchant for enterprise and technology, the environment and outdoors, athletics, and the natural foods movement and burgeoning foodie community. “We will focus on local, homegrown exhibits,” says Geyer.
This will include “Open Studios” in October, an event that will display the work of local artists, though plans are not to replicate an art museum per se. An example of this is the August/September KGNU exhibit, which pays tribute to the local radio program’s 40th anniversary, complete with interactive sound studios.
With three levels of space, the museum can hold several exhibits at once—both permanent and rotating. Permanent exhibits include The Boulder Experience and Google Garage. The Boulder Experience, opening Nov. 17, will showcase what Boulder is all about—from its Native American roots with Chief Niwot of the Arapaho tribe to its more recent endeavors. This includes interactive experiences to explore the science and technology being developed in Boulder today, and to explore contemporary social issues facing the community, such as homelessness, inclusion and transportation.
“Boulder is a small community with a big impact, nationally, globally and even into space. So much creative work goes on in offices, research labs and work spaces throughout our community and most of us have no idea. The Museum of Boulder will become a window to our community, sharing this work and providing inspiration for a new generation of innovators,” says Geyer.
Google Garage, open since May, is a perfect example of this. The makerspace on the museum’s third level for children (or adults) of all ages has rotating arts and crafts activities to complement current topics and themes in the museum. It also offers technology interaction—think painting in virtual reality—for ages 10 and over.
Future additions include the Children’s Discovery Museum, a much-needed children’s discovery space for infants through 6 year olds, which is expected to open on the garden level in January 2019. The Children’s Discovery Museum is still raising funds for completion and is being designed in collaboration with the Denver Children’s Museum.
In the meantime, “Eat Well, Play Well,” a bilingual traveling exhibit for families and children, is on display from September through January. It explores what is in the food we eat, how to make healthy food choices and ways to be active.
Whether you are a longtime resident or visiting Boulder for the first time, this museum holds promise as a go-to venue. The rooftop deck, with stunning views of the city and Flatirons, adds even more programming possibilities. Last summer, yoga classes (vinyasa flow with Rooftop Muse) were held Tuesday mornings on the deck, which may well become an exceptional small events option in the future.
The Museum of Boulder is located at 2205 Broadway in Boulder. For more information, visit www.museumofboulder.org.