Touring Colorado’s Collections: University of Colorado Boulder University Libraries Joins the DPLA

The University of Colorado Boulder University Libraries recently joined the Plains to Peaks Collective (PPC), the Colorado-Wyoming Service Hub of the Digital Public Library of American (DPLA). The CUB Libraries shared over 43,600 historic collection items with the DPLA. While this is only a portion of their vast online collection there are numerous noteworthy collections that will be of great interest to researchers of historic collections.

NSIDC Glacier Photograph Collection

This digital collection is a selection of Glacier photographs from the collection of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. The collection includes repeat photography, the practice of taking multiple photographs of the same subject, from the same location, at different times. Repeat photography of glaciers has become a valuable tool for visually communicating the effects of global warming.

The practice began in the 1880s, as a way to enhance written observations of the annual changes to alpine glaciers. Photographers, then and now, only have a short window of opportunity to capture images of glaciers. The images can only be captured in late summer after the previous winter’s snow has melted from the ice and before the first snow of the fall season. Repeat photography gained momentum in the late 1990s when researchers began to dig into archives of National Park. Unfortunately most repeat photography projects have shown that most glaciers have shrunk and some no longer exist.

jagged ice flow of a glacier
Muir Glacier, Alaska, United States. 1941. NSIDC Glacier Photograph Collection.
an ice-blue lake in a mountain valley
Muir Glacier, Alaska, United States. 2004. NSIDC Glacier Photograph Collection

CU Museum of Natural History: Vertebrate Collection Documentation

The CU Digital Library includes many different types of collections found within the University of Colorado System. One of those unique collections is the Vertebrate Collection Documentation of the CU Museum of Natural History. The collection includes, among many other items, the field notes of Colorado naturalist and engineer, Edward Royal Warren.

Warren spent his early career conducting surveys and assaying mining claims throughout the state, but by 1902 he was a full-time naturalist, documenting the state’s flora and fauna. His field notebooks document his day-to-day activities, including notes about the weather, social activities and his work with specimens. His daily notetaking and at times the photographs he included reveal important aspects of life in the American West between 1905 and 1920 including schools, cowboys, cattle, ranch architecture, western towns, and landscapes. Warren published numerous books, also available in the DPLA, based on his data collection work: The Mammals of Colorado, published in 1910; The history of Colorado mammalogy, published 1911; The small mammals of Colorado, published 1921; The Beaver: Its Work and Its Ways, published in 1927.

cursive writing on yellowed paper
Warren Diary entry, 1909 Journal, pg 138. University of Colorado Boulder, Museum of Natural History.

June 15 Quite clear most of day but very windy. Got a couple of Peromyscus rufinus in traps this morning, and only preserved one of them as the other was a young one.

yellowed photograph of plain two-storey building amidst desert scrub
View of Mosca, Colorado, Alamosa County. From Warren’s 1909 Diary, pg 146

Rocky Flats Collection

The Rocky Flats Plant, located about 10 miles south of Boulder, was a U.S. manufacturing complex that began operations in 1952. The plant produced nuclear and nonnuclear weapons including plutonium fission primaries for nuclear weapons. Nuclear production work was halted in 1989 after EPA and FBI agents raided the facility and the plant was formally shut down in 1992. The EPA conducted a Superfund investigation and environmental cleanup efforts began in the early 1990s. Operators of the plant (Rockwell) later pleaded guilty to hazardous waste and water violations. Through the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge Act of 2001, the site was established as a national wildlife refuge and the site achieved regulatory closure in 2006.

The University Libraries’ Rocky Flats Collection contains occurrence reports which record unusual events at the plant such as safety issues, equipment abnormalities, and incidents where employees were injured or potentially exposed to toxins.

type-written accident report form
Occurrence reports for Rocky Flats Plant, 1991-01-01/1991-03-31. UCB University Libraries

This important collection enhances the online historic record of Rocky Flats. The PPC partners, the Colorado State Publications Library and History Colorado, also share unique items related to the Rocky Flats story.

elbow-length thick rubber gloves
Rocky Flats Anti-Contamination Gloves, 1950-1980. History Colorado, 96.18.18.

Bringing Colorado and Wyoming historic collections together for one-stop-discovery is the PPC’s foremost goal. We are thrilled that the University of Colorado Boulder University Libraries has joined the PPC – bringing the total Colorado and Wyoming collections shared with DPLA to over a half million.

If you would like to learn more about the Plains to Peaks Collective please feel free to contact me, Leigh Jeremias, at  Participation is free and we keep the process as simple as possible.