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Chile Memorabilia Needed for Museum Exhibit

LAS CRUCES -- Hand tools, harvest equipment, historical photos and oral biographies are just a few items the Chile Pepper Institute is looking for to create chile exhibits at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.


The museum is designed to tell the story of farming and ranching throughout the state, and part of that is the history of chile.

"Even something as common as a hoe is an important artifact in chile production," said Paul Bosland, institute director and chile breeder with New Mexico State University's Agricultural Experiment Station. "Since a lot of our chile is still picked by hand, harvest buckets might be useful to lead into a story about hand-picking."

Any artifact that shows the history of chile and chile production in New Mexico could be used in the museum's exhibits. Contemporary production equipment and items depicting milestones in chile production also are needed.

"Milestone items show a change from one tool or process to another," Bosland said. "One example might be a forced-air heater to show the change from sun drying chile to using a controlled-atmosphere drying unit."

Other milestone items might depict canning or freezing chile. Artifacts can be donated permanently or for just a short time.

"We are asking the community to help, because the people who have grown chile for generations in New Mexico probably know the crop's history better than anyone," Bosland said.

Historic photos also are needed showing people planting, cultivating, harvesting, processing and marketing chile. The more information provided about the photos -- including dates, names and places -- the more useful they will be in the exhibits.

"The museum also is looking for what we call 'oral histories'," Bosland said. "For these biographies, an individual from the museum goes to a person's home for about half a day and asks questions as the person reminisces about their chile heritage and experiences." The biography is recorded on tape and archived for future generations to hear. Some audio stories may be used to provide explanations for museum exhibits.

People who are not involved in chile production but who would like to help with the exhibits can purchase a ceramic chile tile that will be displayed at the museum.

"The tiles include the donor's name and home town," Bosland said. "We will either create a 'wall of donors' with the tiles, or place them on resting benches in a chile garden at the museum."

For more information, contact the Chile Pepper Institute at (505) 646-3028. If you want to have your items picked up, contact Javier Vargas with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service at (505) 525-6649.