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Curating the Narrative of the Penrose Legacy

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As the Curator of Historic Properties and Archives since 2018, Sarah has overseen the Penrose Heritage Museum’s 80th Anniversary and co-designed with assistant curator Samantha Knoll a brand-new exhibit featuring never-before seen footage, artifacts and personal documents from Spencer and Julie Penrose. We sat down with her to discuss what it means to steward the Penrose legacy, and how this new exhibit aims to root in legacy while also making the Penrose story more tangible to visitors.

The Museum debuted a brand-new exhibit focused on the lives of Spencer and Julie Penrose. Tell us about your curatorial process.

After evaluating the museum’s history and the visitor experience, we decided to examine Penrose heritage to build a more cohesive identity. We worked from the question, “What did we inherit from Spencer and Julie Penrose, and how does this inheritance impact our lives today?” We wanted to share the relevance of this history in our lives today by curating an exhibit of artifacts, historic photographs and other archival materials to make the narrative tangible.

In using archival materials, what did you learn about Spencer and Julie Penrose?

Archival records are the primary sources from which histories are interpreted and written, so we exhibited these materials to root visitors in the Penrose story as deeply as possible. For example, we show visitors correspondence, passports and even baggage claim tickets to reveal where and how the Penroses traveled.

What can visitors expect when coming to the new exhibit?

Visitors can expect great storytelling, vibrant design and an exceptional display of material culture. We hope visitors might see some part of themselves or their relationship to place reflected in the museum.

We’ve noticed there are a lot of hats in the new exhibit. What is significant about each of those items?

We are displaying several different hats that were worn by the Penroses, whether on their travels abroad or at home in Colorado. Hats are intimate items and something to which everyone can relate. Many of these hats were discovered in 2019 by El Pomar’s Vice Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, R. Thayer Tutt, Jr. It is exciting to share newly discovered artifacts. We were also able to display a hat that was donated to us a few years ago as well as hats of Mrs. Penrose that were loaned to us by The Broadmoor Hotel.

What is your favorite new artifact in the exhibit?

I am excited to exhibit the joint passports used by the Penroses in the 1920s as well as Mrs. Penrose’s passport from the 1950s. These passports, aside from documenting their travels, point to an interesting moment in the history of the U.S. passport and women’s rights. Single women were often issued their own passport, but married women were only listed as “wife” on the passports issued to their husbands.

80 years is an amazing amount of time to be in operation, what does carrying this legacy into the next 80 years look like?

It is entirely about our relationship with the community. The original El Pomar Carriage Museum that Julie Penrose opened in 1941 was beloved by the neighborhood and those who visited The Broadmoor. Moving forward, we aim to expand our reach and share the histories which our visitors live and experience every day.

Learn more about how to visit the new exhibit at the Penrose Heritage Museum here.

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