Los Alamos wants a new national park to commemorate the Manhattan Project. State Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel has proposed making a museum in the state penitentiary. And Ruidoso Downs is (still) trying to save the Hubbard Museum.

Unique properties, interesting proposals. Some have more merit than others.

Proponents of the Manhattan Project park hope to preserve and interpret such historic structures as Pond Cabin, where early work was done, and a vintage Quonset hut where the atomic bomb Fat Man was assembled.

Opponents don't like the idea of glorifying a dark chapter of history.

History is history, good or bad. The Manhattan Project was a watershed event, and Los Alamos was its womb. Yes, it deserves a site because it's worth remembering and reflecting on the events leading up to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Critics should remember that in Germany a few Nazi concentration camps have been preserved and opened to the public because tourists are interested in seeing them and because descendents and survivors want the public never to forget.

Recognizing an infamous place has a precedent in New Mexico..The Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner is a handsome, culturally sensitive monument to the Navajos and Apaches who died there in an army experiment gone terribly wrong.

Far less deserving, for several reasons, is the notion of turning the state pen into an attraction because of Old Main's notoriety as the scene of the murderous prison riot in 1980. This is not the site of significant history; it would only be a monument to the stupidity of the state's corrections policy at the time.

The bigger consideration is that Santa Fe boasts a great many fine attractions, which already command their share of state cultural spending. Other locations are more deserving of future attention.

One is the Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso Downs.

The Hubbard houses fabulous exhibits of fine art and western artifacts, including Anne C. Stradling's 10,000-piece, horse-related collection. The Hubbards, R.D. and Joan Dale, decided they didn't want to be in the museum business and in 2005 gave it to the town, which has struggled ever since to keep it afloat. Hopes for a little help from the state have faded.

In a similar fashion, the excellent Fort Stanton near Ruidoso continues as a stepchild of the state, which lists it as a historic site but funds one lone employee. I confess that Fort Stanton is something of a pet cause with me.

The state Cultural Affairs Department says Stanton "may be one of the most intact 19th century military forts in all of America today." Its 53 buildings sit on 27 acres within 1,300 acres of BLM land, which means the visitor can still see the fort with minimal intrusion from modern life.

That the fort flourishes as an attraction is due entirely to a devoted corps of volunteers under the banner of Fort Stanton Inc. (fortstanton.org), who deserve medals for their resourcefulness and hard work.

I've written before that these two places are too far from Santa Fe to get the attention they deserve. One mitigating factor is nearby Lincoln, a state historic site with 17 structures and six museums.

Decision makers may think Lincoln County is amply served by state support of Lincoln and doesn't deserve any more. If that's the case, they should apply the same thinking to Santa Fe.

I wrote that Sen. John Arthur Smith's $400,000 for water planning didn't survive the 2013 session. It did, and updates to water plans are in the works. I'm happy to be wrong!

And we say farewell to John Dendahl, remembered by most for his Republican politicking. I will remember him as one of the state's most effective and energetic economic development secretaries - and as a very funny guy.

 

Sherry Robinson is a columnist for New Mexico News Services.