Junius Henderson — The “Giant” of Natural History
The Natural History Museum at the University of Colorado Boulder is a pretty fantastic place. It holds the largest collection of historical artifacts in the Rocky Mountains, possesses over four million objects, and has a diverse array of exhibits that would pique anyone’s historical interest.
For the next few months, alongside the dinosaur bones and other permanent exhibits, the Natural History Museum will feature ‘Becoming Butterflies’, an exhibit which features the entire life cycle of a butterfly from chrysalis to winged beauty. It will also feature ‘Animals in Antiquity’, an exhibit which features objects and sculptures of animals from the last four thousand years of human history, and an exhibit titled ‘Unearthed’, which features the stone tools used by the people who used to occupy the Boulder Valley, dating back to what archaeologists believe to be the last ice age. The Natural History Museum features a plethora of amazing historical artifacts, and I highly recommend checking it out if you have the time to do so.
The Natural History Museum is located in the Henderson Building, named after the man who started the museum more than eighty years ago, Junius Henderson. Henderson was born in 1865 and moved to Boulder, Co in 1892 and started working in a law office. Two years later he was a county judge and a law instructor at the University of Colorado. He was also always interested in nature, and when he found that the University’s history collection was small and poorly maintained, he offered to build it up and take care of it. It seemed a tremendous task, considering the collection was so poor and small they only had a few fossils and mounted birds, but over the next few years Henderson would quit his job as law instructor and work full time as the Natural History Museum Curator. He would go out and look for fossils almost on a daily basis, document the geography of Boulder, add to the list of known birds in the world, and study glaciers. His field notes were highly useful to other historians, and he was a veritable polymath, keeping documentation and extensive notes on a wide variety of subjects.
If Henderson could see the Museum now I think he would be proud. In 2003 the Natural History Museum received accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, an honor that only 18 of 500 University Museums have received. The Museum has a state of the art facility, featuring interactive exhibits, and opportunities for students and younger people to explore and discover just like he did. The Natural History Museum is a testament to his success and dedication, and if you have the time to go see it, go!