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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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University Museum opens New Deal exhibits

The New Mexico State University Museum will open two new exhibits, "New Deal Crafts: Spanish Colonial Revival" and "Waste Not, Want Not: Great Depression Living," at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21. Gallery talks will take place at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served.


Both of these exhibits showcase a 1930s theme in honor of the 75th anniversary of the New Deal. A year-long celebration will take place from March 31, 2008, to March 31, 2009.

"The impact of the New Deal on New Mexico was huge," said Terry Reynolds, curator of collections and exhibits.

"New Deal Crafts: Spanish Colonial Revival" will display Spanish colonial style furniture made by Mesilla Valley youths, which was funded by the New Deal's National Youth Administration. These young men were taught skills such as tin work, leather tanning, wood carving and furniture making.

Reynolds said in 1936, the university hired the National Youth Administration to create furniture for Dove Hall, which housed the Home Economics department, now the Family and Consumer Sciences department. The department then gave the furniture to the museum in the 1960s.

"We owe the exhibit to the Family and Consumer Sciences department," Reynolds said. "They saved the furniture."

The University Museum has the largest collection of this furniture preserved in southern New Mexico, with more than 60 pieces, all of which will not be displayed.

"Waste Not, Want Not: Great Depression Living" will display some of the practices families used to cope with economic hard times during the 1930s. Repaired objects, recycled materials and well-used objects show a lifestyle with little disposable trash or income.

Reynolds said the exhibit will show how people during the Great Depression conserved items and how those items were used into every day life.

Items include a rocking chair held together by steel rods, a rug made from various rags, cellophane belts made from cigar wrappers and various household items made from flour and feed sacks. Family photographs, stories and correspondences will accompany the objects.

Reynolds said the majority of the items are on loan from members of the community she met during a 1930s workshop last summer.

"A lot of this kind of stuff didn't go to museums, it went to the dump," Reynolds said. "A lot was thrown away because they wanted new things after World War II."

Reynolds said she hopes those who see the exhibits gain an appreciation for how hard people worked 70 years ago to make their lives and community better.

"I hope people see how important it was that the government helped," Reynolds said. "New Mexico couldn't have done it on our own."

During the gallery talks, Reynolds will briefly introduce the "New Deal Crafts: Spanish Colonial Revival" exhibit. She will discuss the pieces, the men involved with the National Youth Administration and what happened to them after the Great Depression. Community members who donated items to the "Waste Not, Want Not: Great Depression Living" exhibit will speak about their items and memories they have, or were told, about the Great Depression.

These exhibits will be on display through June 23. The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and admission is free. The University Museum is located at Kent Hall, on University Avenue and Solano Drive.

For more information call (575) 646-4056.