Los Alamos Historical Society Seeks Community Support

Participants in a past historical walking tour. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos Daily Post

Summertime is typically the Los Alamos Historical Society’s busy time. Visitors walk through the exhibits at the history museum, participate in the historical walking tours and shop in the museum’s gift shop. COVID-19 changed all that.

The museum is empty, and a lot of its activities and programs moved online. While the Historical Society has adapted to accommodate the state’s public health order; the pandemic has made the organization suffer a financial loss.

Executive Director Elizabeth Martineau said 75 percent of the organization’s income comes from museum visits, donations and gift shop sales.

“Right now, it looks like we will probably be closed through August (or later), which is our summer season … (so) 75 percent of our funding is cut,” Martineau said. “That’s going to impact us for the whole entire year. When the museum closed that was just devastating to us. We can offer things online, but it is difficult to offer admission online.”

There are many unknowns at this point, but Martineau said the Historical Society continues to serve the community.

“We’re not sure what the future will bring,” she said. “We are really, really trying. I just love this town. I love our history. Our main job is education so however we can do that … we’re meeting our obligation in education just in a different format.”

Martineau said work is underway to offer more online. The Historical Society’s website can be accessed here. The Historical Society will feature a page on its website starting July 1 about the Trinity Site.

Additionally, information about hikes on historical trails and victory gardens are available on its website.  The site also offers an online gift shop and locals can use a special coupon code, loslamos, and have items delivered to them.

The organization also has a YouTube channel, Los Alamos Historical Society Lectures, which offers lectures by Craig Martin and Alan Carr.

However, the organization’s fall gala is canceled.

In addition to its numerous programs and events, Martineau pointed out that the Historical Society does a lot of things behind the scenes such as maintaining the archives, researching and collecting information and artifacts on the current events such as the COVID-19, the social demonstrations at Ashley Pond and the closing of landmark businesses like the Reel Deal Theater. Historic buildings including the Hans Bethe House and Oppenheimer home also need to be maintained.

“We’re busy doing the invisible things people don’t see … we’re really busy … the museum is just one of the things we do,” Martineau said.

She added that the historic district plays an important role in Los Alamos.

“I think it is so important that we value our historic district,” Martineau said. “We’re going to need the historic district to bring our economy back. We need to keep up with history. I also feel right now it is important that we understand our past to better our future.”

For instance, Martineau said the homesteaders’ persistence should be remembered because “we need those examples of hope.”

One of the ways the community can assist the Historical Society is by becoming a member, she said.

A membership really introduces people to the town’s history, Martineau said. Members receive a quarterly magazine, which informs readers about the town’s history.

Additionally, members receive discounts in the museum shop, they are notified in advance of special events and work is underway to create a members-only page on the Historical Society’s website.

Martineau added members also will receive a special pin that pays homage to Burt the Turtle, a character that educated people on “duck and cover drills.”

High-level members are treated to special passes, tours of archives and other perks.

Some residents may choose to participate in the legacy society, Martineau said, which donates their estate to the Historical Society.

“I really think that we depend on community support and people in this town need to know they make a difference … how they spend their money … really creates this town. It is created with how they spend their money … you should think about supporting (businesses) and that’s small business where you eat lunch and where you give donations,” Martineau said. “If they realize their donations and their support really creates our town … what do you value – that is the question the community needs to ask.”

The community has shown support for the Historical Society. Martineau said the Los Alamos Community Foundation awarded the organization a grant and New Mexico Humanities Council also gave the Historical Society a grant. However, Martineau said the organization is still taking a hit since it typically has 2,000 visitors a month and they generate $10 a piece in revenue through gift shop sales and admission fees.

Martineau said while the public health order is necessary to stay safe and there are many services and programs that need support, she hopes the community can find a way to help out the Historical Society.

“We are still working (even though) we are missing a huge part of our income … we’re trying to follow the Governor’s orders,” she said. “We want people to stay safe; we want our community safe. We are sharing your history; this is your museum and we hope (you) value our historic district and support us through this gap.”


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