The Libertarian Party’s national archives now live in Colorado

The limited-government party was founded in Colorado Springs in 1971

The Libertarian Party’s national archives now live in Colorado

They came in a U-Haul.

Colorado, the birthplace of the national Libertarian Party, is now something else: host of the party’s trove of physical archives since its founding in 1971 in Colorado Springs.

Or was the party founded in Westminster?

That’s a friendly dispute among some Libertarians who debate whether the official formation of the small government individual freedom party, which took place in the Springs, supersedes where its ideas were hashed out around party founder David Nolan’s Westminster dining room table.

Regardless, Colorado, a state with about 1 percent of its registered voting population claiming membership in the party, has always had an outsized role in Libertarian history. Now, just this spring, the party’s physical history relocated from a storage facility in Alexandria, Virginia, to Parker, Colorado.

Leading the effort to bring those records to the party’s birthplace was Caryn Ann Harlos of Castle Rock, the state party’s pink-haired spokeswoman who serves as the national party’s representative for nine western states. On a December trip to the East Coast on party business, she asked to see archives many thought were destroyed in a flood when they were housed in the basement of the famous Watergate building. Instead, Harlos found a room of records largely intact. Boxes of newsletters, convention material, even contents from the desks of former party officials.

“I got a burr under my saddle and was like ‘This stuff needs to be preserved,’” she said over the phone recently.

The national party set up a committee and formulated a $10,000 budget to make it happen. Party people packed the archives in a U-Haul and a staffer drove it west.

For the past several weeks, Harlos, a paralegal with two decades of document management  experience, has, in her own words, been becoming one with the records.

“There are tape recordings of old conventions, there are video tapes of old TV spots, there are bumper stickers, there are buttons, there’s a lot of handbills and fliers and stuff from older presidential campaigns,” she says about what’s inside. She found handwritten 1974 convention minutes on the back of an old press release.

Her goal is to organize and digitize the documents, and then upload them to the online crowdsourced Libertarian history site Lpedia.

She stresses it is not a public Libertarian Party museum or anything, but anyone who wants to take a look can make an appointment with her.

“There are people very passionate about the history,” she says. ”I have people planning weeklong vacations to come and work on these records in Colorado.”

Call it Libertarian tourism in Colorado.

Says Harlos: “Being the birthplace is really [a] big thing and we’ve always taken great pride in that.”

Photo provided by Caryn Ann Harlos; homepage photo by Gage Skidmore for Creative Commons on Flickr

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

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