New Museum Opens in Downtown Las Cruces

Nov 7, 2012

Workers were wrapping up the finishing touches on the Museum of Nature and Science a day before it opened to the public in downtown Las Cruces Friday.

Richard Quick, the museum’s naturalist, was working to place a panel inside a turtle cage. 

“You have to be real careful with this tape because it sticks once and it’s stuck,” said Quick. 

Richard said New Mexico is no stranger to turtles. 

“New Mexico has ten species of turtles. The majority of those are aquatic and the Western box turtle is the only box turtle that we have.”

The museum showcases one of Las Cruces’ most famous residents, Clyde Tombaugh, who first discovered Pluto. Kim Hanson is Education Curator at the museum and a fan of Tombaugh.

“He founded the Las Cruces astronomical society and he spent his entire life making astronomy accessible to the public – a fantastic inspiration to anyone who loves science.” 

Kim spoke with his family and says Tombaugh probably wouldn’t be mad that Pluto was dropped as a planet.

“People thought he would have been upset. And they said no, he would not have been upset because he was all about the advancement of science. And it’s all about clarity, all about refinement and he would have been fine.”

The Museum of Nature and Science has some history of its own. For the last 25 years, it was inside the Mesilla Valley Mall. 

And one artifact came with it during the move. The nature center from the old location is now at the new one. 

“This facility here is twice as big as it was at the mall. And we’re really able to focus on things that are specific to this region of southern New Mexico.” 

And with all that new space, the museum has added a space exhibit and prehistoric track ways exhibit. 

The trackways were lifted directly from the Robledo Mountains and show fossilized tracks from whatever animals walked across at the time. 

Also at the museum is a cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex named ‘Stan.’ Stan was found in South Dakota, but dinosaur bones have been found all across New Mexico.

But Kim says that may not be the first thing you see.

“When you walk in the front door, first thing you see is this mural with the track ways and it’s fantastic. It’s an amazing suite of fossil footprints of several different animals – not just one. It’s a snapshot in time, a single moment of a whole bunch of animals walking right here when this was a seashore.”

The new museum of nature and science connects to the museum of art, so visitors can walk between the two. Richard Quick sums up what he wants the new museum to do.

“It shows everything about this area… what has been, what is now and what will be,” said Quick.