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Modern Technology, Ancient Communities: The Archaeology of Prehistoric Settlement Patterns 

Branigan Cultural Center LogoKelsey Reese will present the November 2014 History Notes lecture at Branigan Cultural Center on Thursday, November 13 at 1pm. Her lecture is titled Modern Technology, Ancient Communities: The Archaeology of Prehistoric Settlement Patterns. This program is free and open to the public.

The study of the ancient past creates unique challenges for archaeologists. In the American Southwest, we are lucky to have excellent preservation of sites and artifacts, but these things themselves cannot tell us the full story. This lecture will present one way researchers are trying to use the power of modern technology to fill in the gaps in our understanding of the social life of these people. It will focus on communities in the Mesa Verde region, interaction among households, and research potential in southern New Mexico.

Ms. Reese received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Political Science and Anthropology and her Master’s degree from Washington State University. While her main focus is in the Mesa Verde region, she has also worked in the Midwest at sites connected to Cahokia, performed research at the Santa Fe Institute, and recently co-authored an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ms. Reese works for a small non-profit archaeology firm in Las Cruces.

History Notes, monthly lectures on historical topics, takes place on the second Thursday of each month at 1 pm. This is the final lecture in the 2014 series. Please check our webpage or Facebook for a full listing of these and other Branigan Cultural Center public programs.

The Branigan Cultural Center is located at 501 North Main Street. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4:30pm. For more information, contact the Branigan Cultural Center at (575) 541-2154 or visit the Center’s website at

Rio Grande: Past, Present, Future

Branigan Cultural Center LogoJoin the Branigan Cultural Center on Saturday, November 22 at 12pm for a lecture given by Dr. Fred Phillips. Dr. Phillips is a professor of Hydrology at New Mexico Tech, and was the 2001 recipient of the Meinzer Award, the most prestigious award in the Hydrology field. Dr. Phillips will be discussing impacts on the Rio Grande River, and its future. This lecture is part of a larger series tying into the Desert Air and Fragile Waters, traveling exhibitions.

The Rio Grande Valley receives the large majority of its water supply, both surface and groundwater, from its headwaters in Colorado and northern New Mexico.  They constitute a small fraction of the drainage basin.  This hydrological reality imposes severe constraints on the potential supply of water for the inhabitants of the Rio Grande Valley.  For most of its history, the inhabitants accommodated themselves to the flood-and-drought vagaries of the river, modifying it in only very minor ways.  This changed with the incursion of railroads in New Mexico in the 1870’s.  The effects of access to distant markets and to modern engineering technology resulted in changes to the Rio Grande that by the middle of the 20th century made it scarcely recognizable as the same river that had existed 100 years prior.  In many cases, the changes were not intentional, but rather arose from unforeseen outcomes of economic activities.  We have now reached the point where water utilization is a zero-sum game.  If water is to be put to new uses, it has to be taken away from an existing user.  Water availability is the constraining limitation on human activity in the Rio Grande Valley.  The question for the 21st century is whether the inhabitants of the Valley will continue to reallocate the water to satisfy blindly accepted societal goals, and suffer the inevitable unintended consequences, or whether they will recognize the limiting role of water supply and try to direct water use toward achieving the best quality of life possible within the water limitation.

Fred M. Phillips is a Professor of Hydrology and Director of the Hydrology Program in the Department of Earth & Environmental Science at New Mexico Tech in Socorro.  His undergraduate degree in Earth Science is from UC Santa Cruz and he earned a Ph.D. in hydrology from the University of Arizona in 1981.  Current research interests include environmental tracers in surface water and groundwater, paleoclimate and paleohydrology, surface-exposure dating using cosmogenic nuclides, tectonic geomorphology, and the interactions of social and hydrological systems in the southwestern U.S.

Desert Air, a traveling exhibition opening at the Branigan Cultural Center on Friday, November 7, showcases photographs taken by renowned National Geographic photographer George Steinmetz. Desert Air is the first comprehensive photographic collection of the world’s “extreme deserts,” which receive less than four inches of precipitation per year. A number of family and adult programs will accompany the exhibit, imparting visitors with a better understanding of how desert ecosystems impact the world that we live in. Lectures by historian Dr. Garcia-Bryce will provide a look into how different cultures have made deserts their home. Family workshops with demonstrate the challenges that taking aerial photographs can represent, as well as the impact that light can have on the desert environment. There will also be other events such as a book club, and docents lead tours of the exhibit. For a full list of activities, see our webpage or facebook.

The Branigan Cultural Center is located at 501 North Main Street. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4:30pm. For more information, contact the Branigan Cultural Center at (575) 541-2154 or visit the Center’s website at

Rain in New Mexico: Past, Present & Future

Museum of Nature & Science LogoThe museum and the New Mexico Academy of Science is pleased to present a talk by Dr. Thomas Schmugge of the New Mexico Water Resource Research Institute on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 5:30pm, at the Museum of Nature and Science.

In the state water budget the biggest components are precipitation and evapotranspiration, which are very difficult to assess on a statewide basis, particularly for our sparsely populated New Mexico. This is especially true of evapotranspiration because of the difficulty in measuring it on the ground. There are several approaches to estimate evapotranspiration using remotely sensed data to augment the ground network of rain gauges. Dr. Schmugge will discuss these approaches and their startling results.

Family Game Day

Railroad Museum LogoWhat types of games did families enjoy in the years before electronic games were invented? The Las Cruces Railroad Museum hosts Family Game Day on the 2nd Saturday of each month. Develop hand-eye coordination with Jacks and Cup and Ball Toss, stimulate your mind with jigsaw and wooden puzzles, or challenge friends to a game of Dominos. Stop in anytime on October 11th between 10 am and noon to try your hand at a variety of old-fashioned games.

The museum is located at 351 N. Mesilla Street, at the intersection of Las Cruces Ave.

Story Time Featuring Thomas the Tank Engine

Railroad Museum LogoThe Las Cruces Railroad Museum hosts Story Time on the third Saturday of each month. Join us on October 18th from 11:00 – 11:30 am. Listen to a Thomas the Tank Engine book, and enjoy a Thomas video while completing a related free craft activity. Children of all ages welcome.

The museum is located at 351 N. Mesilla Street, at the intersection of Las Cruces Ave.

Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Shares Recently Discovered Photos of Mesilla Valley from late 19th Century

Railroad Museum LogoThe Las Cruces Railroad Museum will host a lecture at noon on Tuesday, October 14.

Eric Liefeld, President of Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc., will show a recently discovered set of original photographs of the Mesilla Valley. These photos from the late 19th century were most likely taken on a trip through our area and offer insights into local life and architecture.

Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc. is a local 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to preserving the architectural legacy of the Mesilla Valley, and to “preserving the future of our past.”

Light refreshments served. For more information, please call 647-4480.

The museum is located at 351 N. Mesilla Street, at the intersection of Las Cruces Ave.

Purchase “Historic Las Cruces: The Story of Las Cruces & The Mesilla Valley”

historic_lascrucesTake a glimpse at this beautiful and interesting history of our community. Schurtz’s writing provides fascinating history of the people, buildings and events that shaped the community. The book is always available for sale at the Railroad Museum, and the Branigan Cultural Center. If you purchase it online, consider starting at, and selecting the Foundation for Las Cruces Museums for your donation.


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