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Way, J. Edson

About | Abstract


Discusses jobs as Director of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum (1992-1998) and head of the Office of Cultural Affairs (1998-2002).

Interviewee Dr. J. Edson Way, male, born in -0001
Date Range 1992-2005
Date & Location March 11, 2005, Dr. Way's real estate office in Santa Fe, N.M.
Project Founders
Region Southwest New Mexico
Number of Tapes 3
Transcribed April 17, 2006
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Tape 1, Side A

Introductions are made, and Dr. Way discusses his educational background, specifically who he is and how he got to Santa Fe, N.M. He discusses his wife Jenny's family and their ranch.

He discusses his museum career before becoming the Director of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. His time spent at the Space History museum in Alamogordo, N.M., is reviewed along with his observations of the early years of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. He also talks about how he became involved in the Office of Cultural Affairs.

Tape 1, Side B

Dr. Way continues talking about how he became Director of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and the politics behind his appointment. Several key Board members are mentioned and discussed, as well as the early development of the Museum in relation to the Board.

He recounts the search for suitable property on which to build the Museum. There is more discussion about the early days of the Museum Board, particularly the conflicts, struggles, and early fundraising efforts of the Board.

Tape 2, Side A

Dr. Way recalls the groundbreaking ceremony and the state funding struggles. He discusses the impact of legislative action and inaction on the development of the Museum in the early days.

Support for the Museum, territorial issues, and events surrounding the scandalous architect search are discussed. He also describes the art of governmental diplomacy and dealing with legislators.

The construction of the main building, budget concerns, and the building dedication are discussed in addition to early failures due to the lack of perspective on the part of the majority of parties involved.

Tape 2, Side B

Dr. Way tells the story of his trip to Madrid, Spain, during which he was appointed the Officer of Cultural Affairs. The trip was to commemorate the 400th year of Spanish arrival in New Mexico.

He discusses the manipulations by the exhibit consultants, Main Street Design and states that the resulting exhibits were not what he or the Board of Directors had envisioned. He shares that he felt betrayed by the Board, and that this ultimately led to his decision to leave the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

The manipulation of votes, in the hopes of throwing the Museum project out, was the source of confrontation, as was the pressure by the mayor to turn the facility into a convention center. Way shares his impressions of the architectural firm, in particular how he felt that they had a good working relationship.

Tape 3, Side A

The discussion regarding the architectural firm and the building of the Museum continues, as well as other firms and businesses used.

He shares his feelings about the proposal to put the Museum under New Mexico State University or the N.M. Department of Agriculture and his belief that the University did not want it.

He feels the most important and most critical functions of the Museum are the educational mission, outreach in the community, heritage preservation, and an agricultural emphasis. With the drought, international competition, and the environmental controls on pesticides, Way feels that our agricultural heritage is being boxed in. He states that the Museum must have a priority. He feels that outdoor exhibits should have more of an antique emphasis.

The role of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Foundation and fundraising efforts in particular are discussed. He feels that a clear-cut program and project-oriented financial support should be sought. According to Dr. Way, Museum policy and programming must come first. Cooperation between the Rio Grande Historical Collections and the Museum is reviewed.

Asked whether the Museum mission has changed since the beginning, Way responded by saying that initially the indoor exhibits received the higher priority. Main Street Design felt that the outdoor exhibits would be of a higher grade of interest.

The different conflicts between the Museum Board and the Foundation Board and between Board members and Museum staff were discussed. He thinks there needed to be a lot of give and take. One of the main conflicts was priority. The lack of experience with Museum trends was one of the main reasons there was a prioritization problem.

Way offers thoughts about funding and support from ranchers and farmers, who viewed our value system to be more oriented toward luxury rather than covering basic necessities.

In response to the question of how the Museum's Board of Directors rate in comparison to others that he has worked with, Way said that he felt ours were somewhat easier to work with because they were a lot more supportive. However, he felt that they fall short in that they do not have the really "big money" and do not understand the importance and value of quality social gatherings as a fundraising tool. He feels that we could utilize packing plants at a national level of giving and that gracious and high-quality social gatherings should be planned. While the idea of chuck wagon cooking is historically accurate, he feels that it does not bring in the "big money" like an elegant evening would produce.

The conflict regarding the logo for the Museum is discussed. He felt that the logo of the men on the tractor and horse was perfect because it showed the true link between farming and ranching. He further stated that the agriculture in New Mexico is diverse, that beef is the largest economic group, but that the chile industry "is a big part of our New Mexico identity within the state, and beyond state borders." While several ideas were brought forth as a logo suggestion, it seemed that each of the ideas offended someone. The unique situation surrounding how the tractor/horse logo came about is told.

Way discusses key individuals involved in making the Museum what it is today--Dr. Gerald Thomas, Dr. Bill Stephens, Gary Morton, and Rob Cox. Way makes particular mention of the many volunteers who helped with the work in the early days, and states that "it could not have been done without them."

Tape 3, Side B

Way tells of how he acquired the first herd of Longhorn cattle and the donkeys. He reviews the personal and professional developments of the last couple of years, starting with successive bouts of cancer with wife Jenny and himself. He talks about the circumstances surrounding his departure as Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs. He recently has decided to attend an Episcopal seminary. Interview concludes as tape ends in the middle of this discussion.