Breckenridge Heritage Alliance plots the future of town history

Visitors interact with a flat-panel touch screen display at the Black History Museum & Cultural Center in Richmond, Virginia. The same firm that created the display in Richmond, Riggs Ward, is working with the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance to make a similar one for the Breckenridge Welcome Center.
Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia

Coming off recent successes, the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance is looking to the future with separate plans to expand both the presentation and the scope of local history.

Detailing those recent successes, president of the heritage alliance’s board of directors Jerry Dziedzic noted that Barney Ford, a former slave who achieved great wealth during Colorado’s gold rush, was inducted into the Colorado Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Also this year, the alliance got a working sawmill humming at the Sawmill Museum and finished reinforcing the old Reiling Dredge, which Dziedzic characterized as “the most ambitious project BHA has ever attempted.”

Now attention at the alliance has turned to history’s future with the group’s 2019 budget request before Breckenridge Town Council providing a peek into what’s in store. Most notably, the alliance is seeking $480,000 next year with roughly three-fourths of that earmarked for two major undertakings: Time is a River and Modern Breckenridge.

Time is a River is multi-phase project calling for a series of improvements to the Breckenridge Welcome Center, which attracts roughly 400,000 visitors annually. Describing Time is a River to council, Dziedzic said it would “complete” the center.

Some of the work at the welcome center is already done, he noted, including new digital signage, some minor remodeling efforts and the addition of self-service kiosks that allow visitors to plan a day in Breckenridge with an itinerary sent to their smartphones.

Using the Blue River as a metaphor, the alliance is looking to create an interactive timeline on an array of flat-panel touch screens, flowing visitors from 1859 to modern day Breckenridge like water running downriver. The panels would be fixed inside the welcome center, positioned vertically in a portrait format and placed side by side so it looks like one continuous display. As many as five people could interact with the display at a time with one person per panel.

The alliance is working with the firm Riggs Ward, which designed a similar set of panels for the Black History Museum & Cultural Center in Richmond, Virginia. Describing how the display works, Dziedzic said static images pan across the screens to lure people to the panels. A motion sensor detects when someone approaches, and the panels shift to encourage that person to interact with them.

The alliance is anticipating spending $275,000 on the interactive five-panel display with $175,000 going to Riggs Ward for developing the display, including creating the enclosure, handling programming and hardware, and securing delivery and installation. The alliance expects to spend another $25,000 on content development and $50,000 on theater upgrades and minor renovations to get the welcome center ready for the panels. Another $25,000 would be reserved for contingency costs.

“If you go to anybody else’s visitors center, they’re all going in this direction with this kind of technology,” Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said, theorizing how nice it would be to have the ability to change up the display and add to it as needed.

The second project, Modern Breckenridge, is the heritage alliance’s effort to expand the scope of local history into modern times, Dziedzic explained, adding that it goes hand in hand with Time is a River but remains a separate undertaking.

“Both of them represent significant improvements to the welcome center,” he said. “They’re each freestanding, but you put the two together and there’s a lot of synergies that they feed off one another.”

That’s because exhibits culled through the Modern Breckenridge are expected be housed on the center’s second floor gallery, where a number of exhibits last updated in 2006 currently reside. For this effort, the alliance is looking for $100,000 next year.

The heritage alliance is hoping to focus on the town’s “modern pioneers,” people like the hippies and ski bums who helped save Breckenridge from becoming a ghost town in the 1960s. Much of the content for Modern Breckenridge already exists, and the heritage alliance is in the process of interviewing a good number of locals who lived it to further bolster the archives.

“Breckenridge has seen adventurers for years,” Dziedzic said.

The miners of the mid-1800s get much of the attention, he continued, “but there’s another story there … and that story needs to be told too.”

Other major developments that helped shape Breckenridge would be the National Historic District designation that came in 1980, the Blue River restoration effort of the 1990s and the 1996 sales tax that produced almost 60 miles of trails along with 5,000 acres of protected open space in and around town.

“These are the kinds of things that people perceive have made Breckenridge the community that it is today,” he said, adding that the town is still being shaped today, with millennials now making their mark.

As volunteers with the heritage alliance outlined the group’s upcoming budget request, council members inquired about the display’s operations, maintenance and expected lifespan, though none expressed any opposition to providing the funding.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.