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NMSU researchers compiling oral history of mid-century New Mexico

Two researchers from New Mexico State University’s Department of Anthropology are traveling around the state to collect stories about daily life in rural New Mexico during the early- and mid-1900s. Their goal is to record these “oral histories” before the memories are forgotten.


Head and shoulders of a woman
NMSU Assistant Professor of Anthropology Kelly Jenks. (Courtesy Photo)
head and shoulders of a woman
NMSU Associate Professor Anthropology Mary Alice Scott. (NMSU photo)

Associate professor Mary Alice Scott and assistant professor Kelly Jenks are working together with the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum to transcribe and archive the interviews so they can be shared with the public.

“This was a turbulent time in the state’s history, and the interviews we’ve conducted so far tell us a lot about how rural families and communities were impacted by events like World War II,” said Scott. “We want to record these stories before they are lost.”

The project also aims to fill in gaps in our understanding of New Mexico’s history by targeting regions and communities that are often neglected.

“Most published histories of the state focus on the largest communities and wealthiest families, because these produce the most historical records,” said Jenks. “So, we know a lot about prominent families in Santa Fe, for example, but much less about the families who struggled to make a living ranching on the Llano Estacado or farming in the Pecos River Valley. Their stories are important because we have so few, and many of the events and practices they remember are being forgotten as families drift into the cities.”

Scott and Jenks are conducting interviews throughout the summer and will share some of these stories in a series of public talks next spring.

This oral history project is supported in part by the New Mexico Humanities Council and by the Loomis Endowment at New Mexico State University. Inquiries about the project can be directed to Mary Alice Scott (mscott2@nmsu.edu, 575-646-5935) or Kelly Jenks (kljenks@nmsu.edu, 575-646-2560).