After I left Chimney Rock, I headed south through Chama where we stopped to stretch our legs and then continued south towards Los Alamos. I’d never been to the Atomic City but it seemed as good a time as any to check it out.
I started at the Los Alamos History Museum first thing the next morning. I knew a little bit about Los Alamos but only in the vague sort of way where I remembered that it was important from AP US History and what I gleaned from Elizabeth Church’s excellent novel The Atomic Weight of Love.
I certainly knew nothing about the history of the Los Alamos Ranch School and my New Mexican history in general is pretty shaky. I was pretty shocked by the pretty impressive list of alumni and other attendees.
Even though I knew a little bit more about the development of the bomb, it was really interesting to learn more about Oppenheimer and the rest of the scientists as well as how the social order worked in the early days. The museum gives an excellent concise but powerful picture of Los Alamos’s role in ending the war and the development of the atom bomb.
After I finished with the history museum, I headed down to the Bradbury Science Museum. Affiliated with Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Bradbury is free but honestly, I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as the history museum. The displays felt really busy which made reading them and following the story difficult. It was loud and I really just couldn’t focus so I decided it was time to move on.
Among the serious things I learned at the history museum I also learned this fun fact: Oppenheimer, called “Oppie” by peers, made a mean martini. I made sure to get a photo with him.
I have a weird relationship with museums. Sometimes there are things there that are cool enough to justify going but usually I just find them expensive and wish I’d applied my entry ticket to buying a book that would have given me deeper information than I got on the informational posters in the museum. That being said, since 2017 is going to be busy with non-travel stuff, I’ve decided that I should at least visit the Telluride Historical Museum, the Ouray County Museum, the Ute Indian Museum, and probably the Ouray County Ranch History Museum.
Luckily, for the cheapskate in me, the Telluride museum is free to locals on Thursdays! It was really important to me to make it there this winter because they had a special exhibit called “Treasure Maps: Cartography of the American Southwest.” Since I love maps and history it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Not to bury the lede: I loved it. The maps were arranged in chronological order and I poured over them seeing the deepening understanding of the Southwest’s geography. Some of the maps were particularly amazing, the Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco map of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition was probably my favorite. I’m not sure how old each of the map prints were at the exhibition but I loved the whole thing.
The other exciting piece of the museum was seeing the Telluride Blanket, an intact Anasazi blanket dating from 1041-1272. The only known intact Anasazi blanket in the world, the blanket was in gorgeous condition. (For lots more information on the blanket, check out this PDF from the museum.)
I really enjoyed the Telluride Historical Museum. I saw some awesome historic local photos that I hadn’t seen before. The museum was easy to navigate, it was fresh and modern. The museum is only $5 (and for locals, it’s free on Thursdays!). It’s definitely worth a visit.