Toni Laumbach, the chief curator at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum for the past 20 years, is retiring.
Laumbach has been with the museum since its beginning. She has conceived, designed and implemented most of the exhibitions and public programs for the museum, as well as seeking out, acquiring, cataloging and preserving the museum’s collections of over 10,000 items of historical and cultural significance. Her last day at the museum is May 20.
“Toni has been the face of the museum in its many public and scholarly venues,” said Museum Director Mark Santiago. “It has been largely through Toni’s ideas and hard work that the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum has grown from a relatively modest operation with only one exhibit gallery and no public educational programming, into a full-fledged tourist destination.”
Laumbach, a native of Walsenburg, Col., was inducted into the Doña Ana County Historical Society’s Hall of Fame last year. In 2013, she was named the recipient of the Edgar Lee Hewett Award by the Historical Society of New Mexico.
Laumbach’s abilities have been shaped by a long career in museums that gave her many unique insights on the development of cultural institutions. As an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, she worked for Museum Director Dr. J.J. Brody and studied under the renowned archaeologist, Dr. Florence Hawley Ellis. As an undergraduate, she rose through the ranks at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at UNM, serving as both registrar and collections manager.
In 1972, Laumbach became the curator of the New Mexico State University Museum, where she helped organize and catalog their collection. In that role, she also taught NMSU’s first museology classes and organized students in the preparation of the museum’s first exhibits.
Following other dreams, Laumbach enjoyed a successful career as a registered nurse, working in many capacities, both technical and administrative, in the Las Cruces area. However, her true love was museums.
With the development of the concepts for the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum beginning to take shape in the late 1980s, Laumbach approached those in charge of the project and joined the team in 1996, shortly before the main museum building was completed. Aside from being the museum’s first registrar and chief curator, she has performed a variety of other tasks, including serving as the interim director in 2005-06.
In addition to her many museum achievements, Laumbach also has continued to pursue a career in archaeology, where she has demonstrated extensive knowledge of prehistoric and historic pueblo ceramics.