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University of Colorado Museum of Natural History collection

Identifier: COU:1111

Scope and Contents

Series 1 comprises two of the various numbering systems that occur within the Museum’s long history of arrangement and description. Each set of numbers contains images relating to scientific studies that include geology, paleontology, and the study of animals and insects. This series is partially processed. A hand written listing relating to each individual photograph is available through the Archives.

Series 2 contains images grouped together by subject. Subjects include both historical and scientific photographs, and are taken by various photographers that are both professional and amateur. A large number of the amateur photographers listed are affiliated with the University of Colorado, and a large number of professional photographs are by Joseph Sturtevant. When identified, individual photographers have been listed.


  • 1886 - 2000

Historical Note

The University of Colorado, Museum of Natural History was declared as its own department in 1909. Seven years prior to this, in 1902, Junius Henderson was appointed as the first Curator of the Museum and remain Curator until his retirement in 1933. Junius Henderson, together with Professors T.D.A. Cockerell, Francis Ramaley and Earl Morris started collecting fossils; rocks and minerals; shells; taxidermies; and archaeological materials, to expand upon the initial unrelated collections. These founders worked jointly with other University faculty and staff helped to increase the Museum’s collections.

The Museum was originally located in the Hale Building (1894) on the fourth floor from 1900-1937. Through the efforts of Junius Henderson, a new Museum Building was built, opening on November 16, 1937. This building helped to alleviate overcrowded conditions and provide a safer, more fireproof facility. Junius Henderson however, did not live to see the completion of this building. He died twelve days before the opening on November 4, 1937. In February of 1951, the building was renamed the Junius Henderson Building in honor of its first curator. Over the years, the collections have grown and departments within the Museum have expanded into other buildings including Hellems, Macky, the Fine Arts Building, the Clare Small Building and the Bruce Curtis Building.

Some of the collections accumulated by the Museum, in addition to the photographs of its founders, include a number of images from Joseph Sturtevant, John H. Maxon, William Harry Bergtold, Walker Van Riper, Ed Tangen, and three sets of stereographs by the Stereographic Library Keystone View Co. Joseph Sturtevant, who was a Boulder photographer, was one of four children born to Samuel and Jemima Sturtevant. He was born February 8, 1851 in Boston, Massachusetts. His family moved to western Wisconsin around 1854 or 1855, where his father was a merchant. By 1874 he had moved to Boulder, Colorado. There he was first a sign maker and then a photographer. It was after he became a photographer that he started calling himself “Rocky Mountain Joe.” He died on April 6, 1910, after trying to get on to or falling off of, a train going to Boulder from Denver.

Walker Van Riper was born in Sedalia, Missouri on March 9, 1887. After receiving an A.B. at Yale University in 1909 and received a B.L. from St. Louis University in 1912. He was Secretary at the American Trust Company, St. Louis, Missouri from 1909 to 1912. He came west in 1912 for health reasons and taught Banking and Investments at Colorado College from 1914 to 1915. He was involved in investment banking in Denver from 1915 until his retirement in 1943. Following his retirement he became the Curator of Spiders and Insects at the Denver Museum of Natural History. Van Riper became specialized in the photography of rattlesnakes, hummingbirds and spiders and wrote accompanying texts. He was involved in the early use of the high-speed electronic flash, or strobe light, invented by Harold E. Edgerton of M.I.T., whom he worked with on photographing the hummingbird.

John Haviland Maxon was born in Chicago, Illinois, July 18, 1906. From 1923 to 1931 he attended the California Institute of Technology. After his graduation, where he was granted the Doctor of Philosophy degree, he immediately joined the faculty. In 1937 he joined a geological expedition down the Colorado River which shaped his professional career thereafter. During World War II he was in the Army Air Force Intelligence and O.S.S. After the war he returned to California Institute of Technology for only a short time before moving to Denver, Colorado where he organized the Aerial Exploration Company. By 1955 he was the president of the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists and became Honorary Life Member in 1959.

William Harry Bergtold was born October 28, 1865. In February 1886 he graduated from Buffalo University medical department. He worked for Buffalo General Hospital until August 1887 then moved to New York in 1888. He held commission in the National Guard of New York from 1890 to 1894. In 1894 he moved to Colorado for his health, having contracted tuberculosis. In 1918, during World War I, he was the Chief of the Medical Service stationed in Aurora, Colorado. By 1925 he advanced through the ranks to Colonel. Throughout this time he had a great interest in birds. He joined the Buffalo Naturalists Field Club, wrote papers on birds, and became a member of the American Ornithologists’ Union and Colorado Ornithological Association. In 1923 he gave the Museum his collection of birds. In 1928 he published the book “A Guide to the Birds of Colorado.” William H. Bergtold died at the age of 70 on March 19, 1936 in Denver, Colorado.


78 linear feet (169 Containers, 2 flat file drawers)

Language of Materials



The University of Colorado Boulder, Museum of Natural History collection includes images of, but are not limited to: geology; glaciology; entomology; zoology; conchology; botany; Colorado historic scenery; towns; mining; oil, industry; and transportation. Also included are photographs of the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder and a collection of over 900 glass plate negatives by photographer Joseph Sturtevant who was known as “Rocky Mountain Joe.”


To aid in use the finding aid has been arranged based on subjects. Series 1 is the exception as it is partially processed. However, a hand written list relating to individual photographs is available through the Archives.

Items in series and subseries were numerically arranged by box then folder number. Except when an item needed different housing to ensure its physical preservation, the original order has been largely maintained within each box.

When a numbering system that was put in place by the Museum was evident, it was kept as the identifier and listed as the folder number. The numbers within Series 1 have numbers with and without an “x” in front of the number. In Series 2 most of the images by Joseph Sturtevant have numbers starting with “xx.”

Joseph Sturtevant’s glass plate negatives, with the identifiers of “xx” before their number, sometimes have a corresponding photographic print also located within the collection. When this occurred, a note identifying the location of the print was placed in the “Additional Description” section of the finding aid.
Jennifer Sanchez, 2019; partially processed by Jesse Dutton-Kenny, 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Special Collections & Archives Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States