Think of the ninety items on display in the Aspen Historical Society’s new exhibit, “Bests, Firsts & Worsts: Aspen in Objects,” as a rummage through an eccentric great-uncle’s basement. And imagine that eccentric great-uncle as one hell of a storyteller. As you’re looking at a saw from the early 1900s, he’ll explain how deforestation was an issue in mining-era Aspen and that Shadow Mountain was once completely denuded of trees. That Taco Bell hat? The fast-food chain sponsored the X Games the first few years the event was in Aspen, and people willingly traipsed taco-headed all over town. And the sword! It’s Jerome Wheeler’s Civil War blade, and that photo on the wall is of him at Gettysburg. Now imagine interesting explanations such as those eighty-seven more times.
Opening June 23, the exhibit will run for two years at the Wheeler-Stallard Museum. The objects, per the exhibit’s title, represent superlatives from throughout Aspen’s history. Wheeler’s sword, for example, stands in for the man who first kick-started the building of town’s infrastructure. The exhibit is organized thematically, with section titles including Early On, Politics and Activism, Economy, and Being Local. Curator Lisa Hancock expects the accompanying magazine to become a local collector’s item. It contains photos of all of the artifacts and the wall text explaining them, including longer essays for some, and is free with the $6 price of admission to the exhibit or can be purchased for $6.