From Ranches to Rockets: Farm & Ranch Museum Explores Range History | New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

From Ranches to Rockets: Farm & Ranch Museum Explores Range History

At the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum

Red Stone Missile launch at White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Judsen Caruthers.

A new exhibit at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces explores the dramatic transformation of life in the Tularosa Basin in the 1940s and beyond.

Home on the Range: From Ranches to Rockets stretches through two galleries and will be on display until August 16, 2020. Visitors will learn about ranch life in the Tularosa Basin and the surrounding mountains, and how events taking place halfway around the world brought about changes that for many ranchers were permanent.

The transition of public ranchland into private U.S. government property was not uncommon in the American West. Yet the transformation of the basin into a missile testing facility was a uniquely New Mexican experience. The story begins when ranchers from Texas settled in the basin in the late 1800s. There, they found grass tall and plentiful. According to the Museum’s history curator, Leah Tookey, what the settlers didn’t know was that they arrived during a particularly wet climactic period and that raising cattle would not be as profitable as they once believed. The challenging, and sometimes rewarding, lifestyle these ranch families chose changed dramatically in 1942.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II, an executive order established a military training range in the region. The ranchers were told they needed to remove their livestock and they would be allowed back at the end of the war. The families performed their patriotic duties and complied with the orders. Most would never return.

While the basin was used to test rockets, missiles and bombs — including the atomic bomb in 1945 — it was also used to launch the country’s space program and other scientific programs, some in the private sector.

“For decades, White Sands Missile Range has been referred to as a huge outdoor laboratory, a place where weapons and civilian projects can be tested,” said Jim Eckles, longtime public information officer for the Range, and co-curator of the exhibit with Leah Tookey.

The exhibit features everything from replica structures, including a ranch house, tool shed, and a military block house, to items as big as a V-2 rocket engine and a Loki Dart rocket, and as small as toys and kitchen utensils. Interactive activities for children include games, making paper rockets, and feeling the texture of mohair.

Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday, Noon–5 p.m.?The barns close at 4 p.m. each day, but visitors may still walk to see the livestock until 5 p.m. Adults $5; seniors (60+) $4; children (4–17) $3; active US military and veterans $2; children 3 and under and museum members with card, free.

Animals are one of the things that make the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum unique. The “living collection” includes seven different breeds of beef cattle, a milk cow, horses, sheep, goats and a burro.

New Mexico CulturePass

Your ticket to New Mexico's exceptional Museums and Historic Sites.
From Indian treasures to space exploration, world-class folk art to awesome dinosaurs—our museums and monuments celebrate the essence of New Mexico every day.
More Info »

The wallet size version of the CulturePass showing the $30 price

Cultural Atlas of New Mexico Mobile App

Where do you belong?
The Cultural Atlas of New Mexico leads you to historic and cultural places throughout the Land of Enchantment. Organized by region, proximity and interest, the Cultural Atlas will help you find where you belong.

Get it on Google Play

Featured DCA Exhibitions

A photo featuring items representing the Here, Now and Always exhibition

Here, Now and Always

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture invites you to visit its brand new permanent exhibition, Here, Now and Always,
more »

A photo featuring items representing the Shadow and Light  exhibition

Shadow and Light

Shadow and Light, the inaugural exhibition at the Vladem Contemporary plays upon the famed New Mexico light which is
more »

A photo featuring items representing the Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now exhibition

Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now

Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now sweeps across more than 500 years of history—from the state’s
more »

A photo featuring items representing the Icons of Exploration exhibition

Icons of Exploration

Showcases some of the Museum’s most celebrated objects including a real "moon rock," rare replicas of the first
more »