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New History Colorado Center Debuts a Walkable Work of Art

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History, art and tcchnology converged with the grand opening of the new History Colorado Center, located at 1200 Broadway in Denver, on April 28.

Photo courtesy of History Colorado Center
The 40-ft-by-60-ft terrazzo Great Map of Colorado is imbedded into the museums atrium floor.
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Replacing the former Colorado History Museum, the new 200,000-sq-ft History Colorado Center celebrates 10,000 years of Colorado and its people. The museum is a Smithsonian affiliate, one of only three organizations to achieve such an association in Colorado.

Opening exhibits that incorporate high-tech, multimedia experiences combined with historic collections show and tell the story of the state, allowing visitors to become part of the story.

Steven Weitzman, a designer of urban spaces, sculptor and nationally acclaimed public artist, contributed to the $110-million museum by developing the ”Great Map of Colorado”—a 40-ft-by-60-foot terrazzo map of Colorado’s topography that is imbedded into the museum’s atrium floor.

History Colorado commissioned Weitzman to construct the Great Map of Colorado made completely out of Fotera terrazzo tiles. Weitzman and his team hand crafted 234 tiles—which took more than 9,000 man-hours to install, each approximately three ft by three ft, with a tolerance of 5/1000 of an in.—all of which comes together to form a dramatic bird’s eye view of the state. Museum visitors can walk across the tiled floor while getting acquainted with Colorado’s topographical landscape, as seen from 400 miles above the earth.

The innovative work of art is part of Colorado’s Art in Public Places program and is an integral piece of the museum’s first phase of the exhibition program. The Great Map of Colorado functions as both a public art piece and an interactive exhibition. Visitors can push an H.G. Wells-inspired “time machine” across 12 different zones on the map to activate place-based stories from Colorado’s past. Radio frequency identification tags-guided “hot spots” trigger the time machine to play a one-to-two minute program that combines film, music and still images relating to the stories.

The museum itself was designed by Denver’s Tryba Architects and built by Greeley-based Hensel Phelps Construction.

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