The San Juan County Historical Society will meet to celebrate its 25th birthday with cake and a multimedia presentation of over a century of Aztec life.
The society has more than 100 members, many locally, and is celebrating its new home at the old red-and-white firehouse on Main Ave.
The society will kick off its "Remembering the Past" program with snacks and cake at 5:45 p.m., followed by a short meeting and presentation by new president Angela Watkins.
Watkins will share photographs, letters, and lots of stories about the community's colorful founders, citizens, convicts, buildings, bridges, gravesites and lore. People with memories, comments or questions about all things Aztec are encouraged to participate.
"With all the history this area has, that it didn't see a historical society till 1988 is surprising," Watkins said. "But we're making up for it now."
Watkins' passion is historical research when she's not busy running programs or teaching classes at the Aztec Public Library or serving on the Aztec Museum's board of directors.
Her priority for the society is to reach out to people near and far to share their stories, before it's too late.
"My goal is to bring to light what the society does and help people conduct their own research, whether they need help with genealogy or finding property records," Watkins said. "We are an older group of many historians and authors, and we want to see more people contribute to our ongoing project to preserve the history before it's too late."
As part of that effort, Watkins is using technology to document people's family history and past memories. Interested people can bring or send in handwritten letters, photographs or stop by the library or society to record stories or memories they would like to have preserved.
"I was inspired by the popular Smithsonian's Journey Stories' project, which records the oral histories of people's migrations and family lineages onto digital files," she said. "Having come to this area from Louisiana, I am always intrigued by the stories people tell of how they or their families came to reside here."
Using audio and video software on a bank of computers at the library, Watkins hopes to produce digital files to document the personal heritage of as many different perspectives as possible.
"If someone wants to share a recollection or memory, we can record them and put it on a disk," she said.
The society launched its Facebook page last year and posts many historical photographs of people and locations around the county, with many comments and questions under each. Members of the society answer questions and provide context for the images from many decades ago.
Dale Anderson, a museum board member, is a supporter of the society and a booster for Aztec.
"The museum and the historical society are a natural team, and next-door neighbors," Anderson said. "Angela has a high interest in history and brings a lot of energy and ideas to the society."
Watkins is also invested in continuing the society's membership and encourages all to attend the program.
"It's a learning experience to step back in time with people and hear their stories," she said. "The society welcomes all to contribute, have some cake and share."
The San Juan Historical Society's meeting will be held at the Aztec Senior-Community Center, 101 S. Park Ave. For more information, call 505-334-7176 or visit their website at sjcnmhistorical.org or facebook.com/SanJuanCountyHistoricalSociety.
James Fenton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.