Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Rocky Flats Cold War Museum heats up with open hours -- and glowing souvenirs!

Colorado has dozens of museums devoted to unusual items -- bells, washing machines. Some are temporary, some permanent. But no museum promises to have the half-life of the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum, devoted to the plant that manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs just sixteen miles northwest -- upwind -- of Denver.

Sixty years ago, when the federal government announced that Rocky Flats would get this plutonium-filled prize, the facility was given a boosterish welcome in marked contract to the secrecy that would later mark operations at Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.

Rocky Flats never operated again after the FBI raided the plant in June 1989, looking for evidence of environmental crimes. Instead, the next two decades were devoted to cleaning up the environment at that property. Today, most of the plant's location -- more than 6,000 acres -- is poised to open as a national wildlife refuge.

The Rocky Flats Cold War Museum is not located at the former plant, though. Last year, museum organizers took over an old post office at 5612 Yukon Street in Arvada, where they've been busying installing displays that track both the international history of the Cold War and the very local, personal stories of the people who worked at Rocky Flats, who protested Rocky Flats.

And now they're ready to show off their work. Starting tomorrow, the museum will be open for walk-ins from noon to 4 p.m. every Wednesday. Volunteers will be on hand to talk about the plant and sell items from the gift shop -- complete with Rocky Flats logo hats, slogan buttons and glow-in-the-dark cups.

In addition to ongoing exhibits, the museum is offering special classes -- including this month's "Art in the Nuclear Age." On Saturday, June 30, a session running from 9:30 to 11 a.m. in the museum will cover the Cold War in modern art history, as well as contemporary art projects dealing with post-nuclear concerns.

Find more information on the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum site.

In contrast to the modest setting of the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum, the new History Colorado Center is an architectural stunner -- even if the exhibits fall flat. Get details in the Michael Paglia review "The new History Colorado Center is an architectural triumph."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun