With a generous donation of $15,000 from one of America’s most notoriously charitable citizens, Andrew Carnegie, and a plan to make Boulder the “Athens of the West,” our local government moved forward with a building modeled after Greek architecture and dedicated to learning. Built in 1906, the library has been a mainstay in our community for as long as anyone can remember. As our city grew, the vast collection became unmanageable for one building alone, so the books were moved to a newer location.
After falling into a bit of disarray in the mid 1900’s, the community rallied together in the 1980’s to rejuvenate this once popular local fixture. It was decided that the building would now be home to the historical archives for our area. This included maps, oral history collections, and many other vital documents. With so many unique resources to offer, the Carnegie Branch Library continues to be an invaluable part of our city, charged with protecting the very stories and legends that built Boulder from the ground up.
Here’s a look at some of the cool stuff you might be able to dig up at the library:
One of the best parts of having a building dedicated to local history is the ability to pull old documents that the internet may not have even seen yet. Such a rare feat should be celebrated, as most of our information exchange occurs digitally these days. From church records to diaries, the Carnegie Branch Library houses over 750,000 community documents. Scroll through newspaper clippings and pamphlets from around Boulder County that date back to the late 1800’s – you just might find an article about your own home. There is seriously so much untapped potential here, with items that have been around longer than the name “Colorado” itself. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy seeing such well-preserved pieces of our local history, from a time before we were even considered a state.
If documents aren’t your thing, check out the list of available image files. A favorite for many visitors, the Carnegie Branch Library’s photo collection is really quite impressive. It contains records ranging from the 1850’s to the 1970’s, providing insight into over 100 years of life in Boulder. This pictorial representation of our history serves as a sort of narrative for our city’s growth and evolution over time. Viewers will notice that shots of wagons and farms slowly transition into modern vehicles and larger buildings, as the collection chronicles how our great city became what it is today. It contains so much more than your average photo album, offering visitors the unique opportunity to sort through mounds of glass-plate negatives, film, and other visual mediums. While you’re there, take a look at the geographic records, including maps and photos of the area during the early stages of development. Regardless of your reason for visiting, you’ll really enjoy this window into the past.
The history that’s been passed down orally through the generations is an extremely valuable part of our local culture. Much of what happened in the area was shared verbally, rather than in writing, especially some of Boulder’s earliest events. Unfortunately, this tendency often led to the loss of information if someone passed away before sharing everything they knew with someone from the community. In an effort to be proactive and capture these stories, the city established an entire section in the Carnegie Branch Library dedicated to preserving the spoken words of its locals. The archive, which consists of over 1,900 interviews, is Boulder’s largest audio collection focused on the town’s history. These files range from discussions on politics, to everyday conversations regarding life, and other regular fixtures of that time period.
If you’ve ever been curious about your home and the history behind it, look no further than the gem that is the Boulder Carnegie Branch Library. From pulling property records to seeing photos and hearing about people from the past, there is no better place to start your search than here. Grab a magnifying glass and start exploring. You just might discover something new about the place you call home.