Deep in the Colorado high country, upon ephemeral canvases, lies a rich archive of personal, community, regional, and transnational histories engraved upon the delicate bark of thousands of aspen trees. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, sheepherders began to mark their passage through the Colorado landscape by inscribing words and images upon the trunks of high country aspens —arborglyph chronicles of loneliness and longing, but also poignant affirmations of friendship and celebrations of personal, regional, and national pride.
The newest exhibit at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, the Aspen Archive, contextualizes the sociocultural, historical, and political references alluded to in an array of aspen arborglyph carvings documented in the Routt National Forest over the past fifty years and dating back to 1925. Through an exploration of historical and contemporary photographs and maps, oral histories of sheepherders, ranchers, and artisanal wool processors, and multilingual narratives (Spanish-English-Quechua) detailing the origins of sheepherding in Colorado and the American West, the exhibit provides a context for understanding some of the long-standing links between many sheep ranches in northwestern Colorado with herders from rural high country communities in northern New Mexico, México, and Perú.
Created by Curator Alison Krögel, Ph.D.
Professor of Andean & Quechua Studies
University of Denver