With a swipe of his pen, former New Mexico Governor (and proud rancher) Bruce King signed the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum Act in 1991, and thereby inaugurated a 47-acre interactive museum in Las Cruces, New Mexico as part of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. It’s a dynamic, interactive museum that brings to life the 3,000-year history of farming and ranching in New Mexico, including the original trail drive—Juan de Oñate’s trek into the region in 1598, and the first cowboys, or vaqueros.
The Bruce King Building features six different galleries and corridors that display permanent and changing exhibits, including fine art, tools and implements, as well as recreated structures such as a mercantile and pithouse. Be sure to look up as you go in to see the resident owls.
Visitors can study maps and historical photographs, watch a video of an old-fashioned branding, or listen to cowboy music, poetry and stories on the various audio stations. Outdoors, there are farm animals including long horns, horses, sheep, and buffalo. Weekends they have a milking demonstration and pony ride. Also outdoors is a blacksmith, a demonstration and tasting of chuck wagon food, a douser, and other small playgrounds. Oh, there is a tractor collection.
Throughout the year they have several larger events like “Cowboy Days” with shootouts and kids activities, wine festivals, holiday gift markets, a gem/rock collectors’ show, and “Ghosts of the Past” in October. See their event calendar here. Fun and learning go hand in hand.
The museum’s Education Department offers a variety of classes and workshops for all ages There are monthly lectures and special presentations in the theater. Abstracts to oral histories are available for research, along with a wide variety of artifacts. The Museum Library’s holdings of approximately 6,000 cataloged items, including a Rare Books Collection, support every aspect of the Museum’s subjects.
Pair this with a visit to White Sands and/or an exploration of the Organ Mountains. It’s a distinct experience of retrieved memories for some, education for others, and provides a fun-filled day for everyone.