By Tony A. Archuleta
What do Sierra County and New Mexico State University have in common?
They both helped spark Karl Laumbach’s career as an archaeologist and historian.
Laumbach appeared before the Truth or Consequences City Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 9, to remind the city of what a treasure it has in Geronimo Springs Museum.
He also announced the revival of an Archaeological Fair set for Saturday, Oct. 4, at Ralph Edwards Park. It will be kicked off by a Friday evening reception at the museum. Laumbach described himself as a northeastern New Mexico native who, as a first-year student at NMSU, “wandered into an anthropology class.”
Laumbach said the professor of the class, Brad Blake, was well acquainted with Winston rancher Rob Cox, which led to the NMSU duo’s participation in an archaeological excavation near the historic northwestern Sierra County community.
“Then I stopped at the Winston bar, and I started to hear Spanish spoken like northern New Mexico, instead of like I hear in Las Cruces,” Laumbach told the commission. “Just a little difference in the words, and I just sort of fell in love with the place and the history and archaeology along the way. Forty years later, I’m still here.”
“Here” is his residential address in Las Cruces, along with his membership on the Sierra County Historical Society board of directors from 1992 to 2002. He now serves as an honorary board member.
Laumbach reminded commissioners and citizens alike that Truth or Consequences/Sierra County boasts one of the most impressive museums in the state in Geronimo Springs Museum, 211 Main St.
Established in 1972 by “a dedicated little group of local people who loved the history of this place,” Laumbach said the museum has steadily acquired an impressive collection of exhibits that reflects the diverse and colorful history of Sierra County.
“As people got older or saw things change, they would bring those items that they love and that reflected the history of Sierra County to the museum,” he said. “As a result, the collections have built up and people have been confident that the museum would be here, and that those items would be preserved so that people can appreciate the past – as we look toward the future.”
Laumbach said the museum’s world-class collections in pueblo ceramics, paleontology, western art, Apache artifacts, ranch artifacts, documents, photos and maps, along with oral histories, rival those of any museum regionally.
As a nonprofit, the museum relies on lodgers tax revenue locally, as well as donations and admission fees, but like many an organization, public or private, the operating budget is tight, according to Laumbach.
“As the museum’s footprint has grown and become more complex, it has been more difficult to adequately finance it, just like everything else,” he said, “and we have to find new ways of doing things with declining revenues.”
Laumbach said October’s Archaeological Fair is among the initiatives aimed at raising awareness, along with funds, on behalf of the museum.
He said the fair will feature archaeologists and historians from through the state showing and demonstrating to fairgoers many a marvel from antiquity.
Planned exhibits include lessons in spear throwing, “which might be useful in council meetings, I’m not sure,” Laumbach quipped to laughter.
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