Home New mexico state NMSU Library Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Historic Rio Grande Collections

NMSU Library Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Historic Rio Grande Collections

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LAS CRUCES – The Archives and Special Collections Department of the New Mexico State University Library will celebrate 50 years of preserving southern New Mexico’s past and provide access to historical documentation for students, researchers and the community.

The Rio Grande Historical Collections was officially incorporated on January 29, 1972. At the time, NMSU President Gerald W. Thomas recognized the need to establish an archival program at the university to ensure that evidence documentaries of the region’s cultural heritage would not be lost. . He became a strong supporter of the creation of unity.

“He worked with the director of the library and with the history department to start an archives program here, and that was the historical collections of the Rio Grande,” said Dennis Daily, head of the archives and archives department. NMSU Special Collections. “The goal was to collect unique historical records that illuminate the history and cultural heritage of southern New Mexico and the US-Mexico border region, and to ensure that they would be preserved and made available to future generations.”

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Since NMSU is a land-grant research university, the earliest materials collected covered topics such as agriculture, ranching, food production, natural resource management, and community history.

“Think of family papers, correspondence, financial records, business records, diaries, things like that,” Daily explained.

The program receives most of its archival collections through donations from families, individuals, organizations, and businesses, raised through decades of community outreach by the department.

The Archives and Special Collections Department of the NMSU Library houses, organizes, and preserves these materials for the benefit of scholars, while educating the community about the historical origins of the area.

Today, 50 years after its inception, the collection occupies much of the top three floors of the Branson Library, located on NMSU’s Las Cruces campus.

“If you took all these boxes and lined them up side by side, they would span about 15,000 feet,” Daily said. “It’s almost three miles.”

The types of materials collected over the decades have gone through their own evolution, especially as technology continues to advance in multiple ways.

“When the repository was first created, it was mostly paper records and that kind of format,” said RGHC Archivist Jennifer Olguin. “As technology evolves, we tend to get more digital objects, so we have to think about how to preserve information on floppy disks, CDs, different types of media that come in. We must follow current standards and best practices. . We never know what we are going to get when items are donated.

The massive collection also includes nearly two million historic photographs, audio material like oral history interviews, maps, microfilm, DVDs, VHS tapes and more. The collections have been used by researchers around the world and featured in publications, exhibitions and documentaries.

Many collections in NMSU's Rio Grande Historical Collections preserve documents of local significance, including the Amador family papers, a prominent Mexican pioneer family that settled in Las Cruces in the late 1840s.

“These are unique collections. For most of what we have, there is only one copy,” Daily said. “These primary source documents are what scholars use to write history, and they are available to NMSU students and faculty, as well as scholars across the country. We receive many guest professors who come to conduct research on topics related to the border region.

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Many collections preserve documents of local significance, including the Amador family papers, an important Mexican pioneer family that settled in Las Cruces in the late 1840s.

“One of the fascinating parts of this collection is the correspondence,” Olguin said. “It seems they kept every letter, which is to our benefit and to the benefit of the researchers, as it documents the cultural heritage and social life of Las Cruces at the time. Just by reading the letters, you can sort of travel back in time and see how they lived, what their living conditions were, who they had contact with, who they did business with, who was staying at their hotel. It’s just fascinating to read the letters and immerse yourself in Las Cruces at that time.

The Archives and Special Collections houses, organizes and preserves these records for the benefit of scholars, while educating the community about the historical origins of the area. The RGHC continues to grow, adding to the stacks of files and providing content that will serve future generations at NMSU and beyond who study the cultural heritage of southern New Mexico.

“The materials we have here reflect the history of southern New Mexico and serve as a sort of collective community memory of the people who have called this place their home over the centuries,” Daily said.

An exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Rio Grande’s historic collections will open Jan. 29 in the Archives Gallery, located on the fourth floor of the Branson Library. Due to the current surge in COVID-19 infections, a related event featuring historians and archivists discussing the development of the RGHC and the role of archives in preserving history has been postponed to a later date. Other events are planned throughout the year to mark this anniversary.

Anyone interested in donating historical records to the RGHC can find contact information on the Archives and Special Collections website at https://lib.nmsu.edu/archives/specialcollections.html. Financial contributions to help the program collect, preserve, and make accessible important archival treasures can be made to the Rio Grande Historical Collections Fund through the NMSU Foundation at https://advancing.nmsu.edu/givenow. To keep up to date with the latest department news and developments, visit https://openstacks.nmsu.edu.

Tatiana Favela writes for New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications and can be reached at 575-646-3221 ext. 7953, or by email at [email protected].

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