Message #34:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: New Museum Opening in Las Cruces
Date: Sat, 18 Jan 1997 06:56:46 -0700
Encoding: MIME-Version: 1.0

[ The nearby Natural History Museum allows guests to use the museum
computers to access the Internet, thus drawing additional visitors....,
hmmm, what might happen if museums offered Internet e-mail accounts and
other services to regular visitors and subscribers.... -- SASIG Ed. ]

The Las Cruces museum scene, which already ranges from science to art
and from the Old West to the Space Age, is about to add another member.
Sometime this spring, the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum will
open its doors, letting its visitors follow the history of agriculture
in the state. The museum will differ from other Las Cruces museums in
that it is intended to bring tourists to Las Cruces. That's something
the other museums do not try to do. Instead, said Christina Trowbridge,
director of the Las Cruces Natural History Museum, most Las Cruces
museums try to serve the local community. The Farm & Ranch Heritage
Museum won't ignore the Las Cruces community, said Ellen Campbell,
museum marketing director. But the main focus of the museum -- to trace
the state's agricultural history -- should draw people from across the
state, she said. "We want to be a destination point," Campbell said. The
Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum will be the largest agricultural museum in
the country. It will also be the first one built in the past 20 years.
The facility will be east of Las Cruces, on the road to A
Mountain and Dripping Springs.  Work there is going quickly, and
Campbell said museum staff expects to move in beginning in early
January. The staff is waiting for money from the Legislature to finish
buying display cases and finish the
interior work. The museum will have 21,000 square feet of space in its
grand exhibit hall  -- or, as Campbell said, 10 times the space found in
a normal
house. The exhibit hall will include a model of a Mogollon pit house.
Other parts of the museum will house a gift shop, a restaurant, an
outdoor amphitheater, a working blacksmith shop and an outdoor exhibit
of the livestock prominent in New Mexico ranch history, including sheep,
longhorns and horses. There also will be a full greenhouse, where the
museum staff will grow chile, cotton and other New Mexico farm products
year-round. The museum also will have an outdoor market where farmers
can sell produce. "Their facility is very impressive," Trowbridge said.
When the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum opens, there will be 10 museums in
the Las Cruces area. That includes art museums, such as the Branigan
Cultural Center and the University Art Gallery, space museums such as
Space Murals and the White Sands Missile Range Museum, and history
museums such as Fort Selden and the Gadsden Museum. Most of the area's
museums have banded together in the Mesilla Valley
Museum Consortium, a group that works together to promote themselves.
Museums in the consortium distribute fliers promoting other museums,
hoping visitors to one museum will be tempted to visit them all. As
Campbell said, none of the museums really competes with the others.
"We're all really different," she said. If the experiences of other
museums holds true for the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, once it's
built, visitors will come. Trowbridge, whose Natural History Museum sits
in 2,000 square feet in the Mesilla Valley Mall, said her staff counted
89,000  visitors last year. She says that count is low -- visitors are
counted by hand, and the counting isn't always done. Las Cruces museum
visitors tend to be loyal. Trowbridge said she has a strong base of
people who visit the museum frequently. Among them are children and
retired people interested in browsing the Internet
on the museum's two computers. Trowbridge said many of the retired
people who come in aren't familiar with the Net or what it can do. "I
get a lot of satisfaction -- and the staff does, too -- out of teaching
people how to use it," she said. The Natural History Museum wants people
to touch many of its exhibits. Campbell said that philosophy also will
be a feature of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.
Already, the museum has collected almost 7,000 agricultural artifacts
ranging from books and saddles to horse-drawn tills and furniture.
Museum collections manager Toni Laumbach said more material is arriving
daily. "Every time we go somewhere, people give us more stuff," she
said. A short tour of one of the museum's  warehouses finds a wide range
of memorabilia, ranging from a tractor-pulled plow to small items such
as plates and silverware. Most are old. Many are very old. For now,
Laumbach is just checking donations in and warehousing them. When the
building is finished and ready to occupy, she will begin the process of
writing up display information, and the museum staff will decide what
will become part of the permanent display and what will be rotated in
and out. That process is planned far in advance. The Natural History
Museum, for example, has planned its exhibits through 2000. Almost all
the time available for special exhibits has been booked.
Campbell said people are genuinely interested in the Farm & Ranch
Heritage Museum and can't wait for it to open. One interested group is
the Southwest Environmental Center, whose members wonder what emphasis
will be placed on environmental displays. But Kevin Bixby, the center's
director, also wonders why the museum
picked its location. The museum will be on East University, outside city
limits. Campbell said that's because of the livestock. City regulations
would not allow the
museum to have live sheep and other animals within city limits. Bixby
said the city and museum should have tried to reach a compromise to
allow the museum to be closer to people, even if that meant the museum
abandoning its plans to have live animals.
"This is a major museum," Bixby said. "Do the people out there want
longhorns nearby?" Being outside city limits has one drawback -- the
museum will not be
on any city bus route. Campbell said she hopes the museum can work out a
deal with the city so bus service can go there.
Las Cruces New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum: New Farm & Ranch museum takes
shape -- Staff expects to move in to largest ag museum in country in 
By Doug DesGeorges