Museum Hopping in Southeast New Mexico

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State History of Education Museum

Museums are history lessons for those who have lived through that history and those who are too young to have experienced it. When you see how our ancestors lived it doesn’t give credence to the term “the good ole days.” It is, however, a window through which we can view the past. The Roswell Museum and Art Center provides that window in the Rogers Aston Gallery of American Indian and Western Art. That art includes clothing worn, implements, tools and other artifacts used during that era.

The art displays are ever-changing in some of the galleries of the Museum as well as permanent displays of acquisitions. One will see many and mixed styles of art, some created by the Museum’s nationally acclaimed Artist-in-Resident Program.

When you visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida you will find out Robert Hutchings Goddard (1992-1945) is named the Father of Space Exploration. At RMAC there is a replica of his workshop where he began his experiments and tests in Roswell. Next door to the Museum is the Robert H. Goddard Planetarium, the largest facility of its kind in New Mexico. Space again enters the scene with the Roswell Incident of UFOs. The International UFO Museum and Research Center had more than 190,000 visitors in 1997 from all 50 states and more than 54 foreign countries since its opening in 1992. Whether you believe, or disbelieve, something did happen in this area in 1947 that has never adequately been explained.

Three other museums in Roswell offer varied displays. The Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico, in what was once the stately home of James Phelps White, built in 1910, is a reminder of turn-of-the-century life in Southeastern New Mexico. It is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. To step inside is to step back in time. The home is filled with an incredible array of antiques and artifacts. For example, on display is an Edison Amberola phonograph that plays cylinder-shaped recordings and is like the very first dictating machine I used. The Museum offers a unique look at the area’s past.

General Douglas l. McBride Museum

The General Douglas L. McBride Museum at the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) tells the story of New Mexico and NMMI in war and peace. There are exhibits of uniforms, weapons, papers and photographs from the Civil War (1861-1865); Spanish American War (1898); Punitive Expedition (1916-1918); World War I (1917-1918); World War II (1941-1945); Korean War (1950-1953); Vietnam War (1958-1975); and a current exhibit that changes periodically. In addition, there is a Hall of Fame and a Reading Room. The Museum space totals 6,000 square feet. Its mission is to tell the story of NMMI (“The West Point of the West”) from its inception in 1891 to the present.

The newest nuseum in Roswell is the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. Donald Anderson, himself a well-known artist, has assembled a collection of works produced by past and present Artists-in-Residence. It is an outstanding presentation of Modern Art. One whimsical display is “The Soul Service Station, an oasis for the thirsty spirit and hungry soul. Services provided: Petrol for the soul; Spirit Tune-up; Blues Flush-out; and Ol’ Tickers Charged.” All the art is a testimony to the creative, whatever form it takes.

Visit Artesia, 40 miles south of Roswell on U. S. Highway 285, to continue museum hopping. Its museum is known as The Cobblestone House and was built in 1904 and 1905, at a cost of $5,200. The heirs of the last owners offered it to Artesia to be used as a museum and it was opened March 1, 1970. Today its excellent collections attest to the community’s commitment to preserving its heritage. Depending on your age, you will see things you’ve never seen before, or things that bring back memories of another time. Adjacent to it is the Art Center, featuring exhibitions of local artists as well as works from the Museum’s permanent collection.

Heading north on U. S. Highway 285 again, you will come to State Highway 2. Turn north to Lake Arthur where you will find the State History of Education Museum. Constructed in 1906, the Lake Arthur Elementary School has been memorialized as the oldest continuously used school building in New Mexico. In 1989, it was designated the New Mexico State History of Education Museum. It houses a few artifacts but seeing the building itself is worth the trip.

Continuing north on Highway 2 to Hagerman, its museum is in a well-kept, attractive house, displaying the U. S. and State flags and a bell mounted in a brick framework. It wasn’t open to assess the interior. However, as with most museums it no doubt reflects the history of the immediate area.

A few more miles north you will again connect with U.S. Highway 285. Take it until you reach 2nd Street in Roswell, which is U. S. Highway 70/380. Proceed west about 47 miles to the junction when highway 380 leaves Highway 70 for points farther west. Lincoln is 10 miles from this point. Someone has said “The main street of Lincoln is 1,000 yards of museums.” It is almost literally true. Known as the “Heart of Billy the Kid Country” Lincoln’s postmark is “Billy the Kid Station.” As with most museums, you learn the history of an area as well as an era. It recalls the Lincoln County War in 1878. The old Murphy-Dolan store and the Tunstall store remind us of the contrast between those days and these days. To do full justice to Lincoln requires more than just a few words. “Peaceful” is the one word that describes it for me. It is the perfect place to conclude your museum hopping.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks