Written by Steve Friesen, Director/Curator of The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, Denver Parks & Recreation
Remember Tom Sawyer? He got a fence painted by persuading his friends to do the work for him. How did he do that? By providing them with an incentive to help. Tom Sawyer was a fictional character, of course, but the real-life lessons are the same. For example, I see a parallel to what I learned in Peak Academy: through collaboration, innovation can be achieved not just by saving money but finding ways to do more with less.
In April of 2016, my colleague Betsy Martinson and I were talking about the upcoming 100th anniversary of Buffalo Bill Cody’s death in Denver and burial on Lookout Mountain. Betty has taken Green Belt training and I have taken Black Belt training, so we find ourselves speaking a common language often. The question was how to best observe this upcoming centennial.
His burial on Lookout Mountain was the origin of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, and we had ideas of how we could observe the anniversary at our site. Buffalo Bill’s burial has had a major impact on the entire metro area, particularly Denver and Golden. Literally millions of people have visited over the past 100 years specifically because of Buffalo Bill. More needed to be done for the centennial throughout the area, not just at our site. But just the activities we were planning for our site would take all of our financial and people resources. How could we make sure the centennial was observed throughout the metro area without overstretching our resources?
We decided to hold two meetings, one in Denver and one in Golden, at which we would invite museums and other interested organizations. When we held the meetings in May of this year, each attracted around 30 participants. The meetings consisted of a pitch by Betsy and myself about why Buffalo Bill’s death was worth observing and his life was worthy of celebrating. We were very straightforward that the purpose of the meeting was not to come up with more things to do at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave but was instead to help them think of ways their institution might capitalize on the centennial and the increased visitation it would bring to the area. A number of good idea emerged from the discussions. As each brainstorming discussion ended, we reiterated that our role would be to act as consultants to them as they developed their project. But we could not do their projects for them.
The meetings were more successful than we expected. They resulted six different museums who plan to hold exhibits about Buffalo Bill in 2017.More exhibits may be in the works. We are collaborating on those exhibits by consulting with them on subject matter and with loaning artifacts. Other museums will be doing special activities about Buffalo Bill or linking Buffalo Bill to one of their programs. We are advising the National Western Stock Show on their Wild West show and hope to see a special tribute to Buffalo Bill during that show. On January 12, 2017, we will be holding a wake for Buffalo Bill at the Lola Restaurant, former site of Olinger Mortuary, where his body was housed from his death on January 10 YEAR until his burial on June 3. We are assisting with special programs at other institutions as well. The momentum is building and we fully expect that fence to be painted by the end of 2016.