Ceramics and Pottery in Colorado Springs
In 2019, the staff of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum undertook two compact shelving projects to help build storage quality and capacity for its collections. Both ambitious and long-awaited storage projects were funded by a special allocation for strategic priorities from the independent, nonprofit CSPM Board, and the grant is made possible by the generous contributions of Clock Tower Society.
The first project created state-of the-art and secure storage for the museum’s invaluable collection of Van Briggle Pottery. For the first time in the museum’s history, its collection of over 700 pieces is now stored together in a dedicated vault. Although over 150 Van Briggle pieces are currently on permanent exhibit in the From Paris to the Plains: The Artistry of Artus & Anne Van Briggle, the museum is the home to over seven hundred examples of the highly collectible Van Briggle Pottery. The CSPM collection includes early turn of the century pieces designed by Artus and Anne Van Briggle themselves, to more contemporary pieces made in the mid to late twentieth century produced under the Van Briggle trademark.
The CSPM’s collection of Van Briggle pottery comes from two prominent sources. In 1904, examples of Van Briggle Pottery were shipped to St. Louis to be on exhibit during the World’s Fair. After returning them to Colorado Springs, the El Paso County Commissioners donated them to the museum. This donation provided the basis for our collection and was first displayed in the El Paso County Court House, now the home Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. The second and largest gift of Van Briggle Pottery came from Dr. Winthrop and Lois Crouch. A native of Colorado Springs, Lois Crouch worked to preserve Van Briggles history and is responsible for revitalizing international interest in the study of this renowned Art Nouveau pottery. Over the years, Lois collected, documented, and studied Van Briggle Pottery, eventually co-authoring two books. She later donated over 225 pieces of Van Briggle to the museum that today form the core of the CSPM Collection. New storage has ensured that these two donations as well as hundreds of other Van Briggle pieces can be preserved for years to come.
The ceramics vault which is home to the Van Briggle Pottery Collection that contains a wide array of ceramics and glassware. Examples range from tea sets and champagne glasses to perfume and soda bottles. The museum’s new compact shelving consists of high-quality powder coated metal shelves on rails that allow rows of shelves (called carriages) to be positioned closely and moved when necessary to allow access. Rather than having five fixed shelves in the room, the new compact storage system allows seven movable shelves and one fixed shelf. As a result, storage capacity for the room increased by approximately 40%. A crank at the end of each carriage allows staff to carefully shift the shelves by hand to allow safe access. Finally, a decking system and ramp has been placed on the floor to allow staff to smoothly move a cart of Van Briggle across the rails.
Each shelf has a lip along the front edge to allow access but prevents accidental breakage when the carriages are moved. To further protect each piece, staff utilizes archival foam planks that are individually carved to securely hold the base of each piece with Tyvek (an inert packaging/storage material) placed as a barrier to prevent potential abrasions. All of these improved storage steps provide further security for such important artifacts by protecting against vibrations as well as potential damage from moves. Because the design and dimensions of Van Briggle Pottery vary greatly, foam planks of different thicknesses will be used, and the height of each shelf is adjustable. The museum is grateful to the Board and the Clock Tower Society for making this important compact shelving project possible!