Las Cruces – The Dust Bowl not only was a national story, but also a New Mexico story. An exhibit at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces revisits this dramatic time in our history and sheds light on the causes, effects, and aftermath of the environmental and human disaster that crept into the eastern edge of the state in the 1930s.
The Dust Bowl: Dark Times in New Mexico opens in the state museum's Traditions Gallery on Friday, Oct. 8 and continues through Aug. 21, 2011. Through the use of text, dramatic photographs, and oral histories, visitors are introduced to a story that came to symbolize the despair of the Great Depression Era.
Rooted in drought and natural disaster, the Dust Bowl was heavily influenced by man. Expanding agricultural production led to the cultivation of millions of acres of prairie land. Once the crops failed due to drought, the barren ground provided fuel to help power the dust storms. The Dust Bowl affected 13 New Mexico counties and seriously impacted seven of them, according to researcher Richard Chavez, who is one of the co-curators of the exhibit. Some farmers in eastern New Mexico were resettled by the government in new communities such as Bosque Farms south of Albuquerque.
"The larger history of the Dust Bowl is well known, but we also look at how it impacted New Mexico," said the museum's Curator of Exhibits, Dave Lundy. "A lot of people have the idea that the Dust Bowl was solely brought on by drought and other natural phenomenon, but the real causes of it were man-made, aggravated by drought."
Featured in the exhibit is an ongoing showing of the 1936 film, The Plow that Broke the Plains. The controversial 24-minute film was hailed by some as having revolutionized the method of documentary filmmaking, while others blasted it as government propaganda. The museum's exhibit staff also recreated a portion of a small, rural home from the 1930s to give visitors a glimpse into life on the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl.
Learn more about the Dust Bowl by viewing the dramatic American Experience documentary "Surviving the Dust Bowl," as seen on PBS. This film lasts nearly an hour, and highlights the hardships faced by the people of the Great Plains in coping with a decade of drought and dust. "Surviving the Dust Bowl" will be shown at 1:30 pm on the following Saturdays in the museum theater. For more details, please inquire at the Lobby desk.
- October 9 & 23
- November 6 & 27
- December 4 & 18
- January 8 & 22
- February 12 & 26
- March 5 & 19
- April 2, 16, & 30
- May 14 & 28
- June 11 & 25
- July 9 & 23
- August 6 & 20