Jun 03, 2013
They once were scattered all over New Mexico – perhaps tucked away in an attic, buried in a canyon, or left out in the desert sun.
They were of great use, all of these things. They may have kept us warm, delivered food, provided entertainment, or generally made life easier. Each one of them was a treasure to someone at one time … now they’re a treasure to many.
These objects – 10,000 of them – are now in a safe place, all stored neatly in a climate-controlled room at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum. They are the stars of an afternoon at the museum called Antique Treasures Day. The 10th annual event is 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 9. Regular admission applies -- $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and $2 for children 5 to 17.
Antique Treasures Day is the only day each year that the 8,000-square-foot Collections Storage Room is open to the public. Visitors are taken on a guided tour through the room to see the vast array of artifacts.
Only one-third of the artifacts donated to the museum are on display for the public at any given time. Exhibits are changed periodically and most of the artifacts will at some point be on display.
Holly Radke, the museum’s Collection Manager and Registrar for the past eight years, is the “keeper of the artifacts.” Each object donated to the museum is catalogued with an identification number, is photographed and stored in a way to offer the best protection.
“Artifacts tell us about a way of life that’s no longer,” she said.
Preservation is a big part of the museum’s mission and these artifacts that represent New Mexico’s history and heritage are treated with great care. Larger objects are put on pallets to keep them off the floor, some items are stored in acid-free boxes and chemically inert products like Ethafoam and Tyvek are used to help preserve them. Most of the textiles are rolled up instead of folded to avoid harmful creases. Most everything in the room is covered.
“We have a great collection of textiles and clothing items,” Holly said. “Chaps, undergarments, hats, quilts, Navajo rugs. Textiles are some of the most sensitive items.”
Small farm implements are lined up in rows on pallets and covered in plastic. Some wagons, wind chargers and other larger objects are against the wall in one corner. There are rows of covered shelves that contain everything from kitchenware, to tools, to toys. Stone tools and points (the oldest artifacts in the collection) are stored in drawers.
One of Holly’s favorite objects is a homemade, treadle-operated Rio Grande loom that is from the Española Valley in northern New Mexico. It dates to around 1900.
“I really enjoy what I do and I’m learning all the time,” she said. “We have students completing internships with our department as well as great volunteers.”
Holly said she looks forward to Antique Treasures Day each year because it offers an opportunity to show the museum’s preservation program and also connect with people who share a desire to preserve our cultural heritage. Visitors are encouraged to ask her about their own family heirlooms and how best to preserve them.
“A lot of museums don’t let people back here and give them a behind-the-scenes look,” she said. “We love talking to people about their heirlooms. This is our cultural heritage and it benefits everyone if we work together to preserve it.”