The Shroud of Turin has to be one of the most curious and intriguing and mysterious of religious artifacts.
The shroud is an ancient linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man, and many people of faith believe it had been wrapped around Jesus Christ after he was crucified.
While this is a matter of significant debate among scholars and scientists, believers and skeptics, people visiting Alamogordo can delve deeply into the issue and make up their own minds.
“There is a deep connection between New Mexico and the shroud,” said Pete Schumacher, founder and original curator of the Shroud of Turin Museum & History Center (shroudnm.com) in Alamogordo. (The actual shroud is housed in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.)
“The investigation of the shroud involved more people from New Mexico than any other place in the world,” he said.
Personnel from Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, as well as researchers from White Sands, Kirtland Air Force Base, IBM and Lockheed Martin descended en masse in 1975 to study the shroud.
“They had 6,000 pounds of equipment, and 20 of them studied the shroud for 24 hours a day for five days,” Schumacher said. “Then they reviewed material for two years. It was the world’s largest scientific investigation ever to study a single fabric artifact.”
At the heart of the investigation was the groundbreaking use of an image enhancer with the capabilities to include isodensity contouring, image density measurement, signal-level monitoring, 30-display, color-and-monochrome presentation, and computer compatibility.
“All of the discussions are shown in exhibits about the various tests and studies,” Schumacher said. “You can interact with the VP-8 image analyzer so you can understand why and how the machine works and discover why it’s so important.”
The Discovery Channel did a documentary on the investigation in 2008.
“We have a lot of people come to Alamogordo specifically to see the museum and do research there,” Schumacher said. “We’ve had people who have traveled from Panama, California, Italy, France. We had a film crew from China to do documentary in Chinese. And it’s the only place in the world where you can actually go and interact with a VP-8 image analyzer and really study and see what it is all about.”
When it comes to less surreal experiences, the Flickinger Center (flickingercenter.com) is a state-of-the-art former movie theater that underwent a $1 million transformation that now attracts leading acts and also serves to educate local youths about the arts, said Teresa Ham, a volunteer for more than 30 years and who spearheaded the drive for the 1988 capital improvements project.
“We have world-famous shows, world-class shows,” she said. “These shows are really phenomenal for a small town of 35,000 people.”
Alamogordo itself is home to a number of different attractions, not the least of which is the New Mexico Museum of Space History (nmspacemuseum.org).
Among the many highlights of a visit is the chance to explore a mock-up of the International Space Station, as well to see the planetarium on the 40-foot, wrap-around OMNIMAX screen, said Michelle Brideaux, Alamogordo city spokeswoman.
The museum has interactive displays, including a “rocket rumbler,” that makes you feel like you are a part of the launch as everything is literally rumbling around you, she said.
Getting a chance to don a spacesuit has also become a popular exhibit, Brideaux said.
Take a step back in time at the Toy Train Depot (toytraindepot.homestead.com). A model railroader’s delight, the 100-year-old depot has hundreds of model trains and toy trains on display. A 1,000-square-foot HO layout of Alamogordo circa 1940 is among the displays, as is the smallest scaled working train in the world, she said.
Locals and visitors have the railroad to thank for the Alameda Park & Zoo (alamogordo.nm.us/Zoo/coa), which was established in 1898 and is the oldest in the Southwest.
The zoo houses more than 300 animals of 90 species, including the newest animals, Oscar the river otter and Annie the bobcat. Both of these animals came to the zoo from rehab facilities and could not be returned to the wild, Brideaux said. Oscar came from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, and Annie came from the Desert Willow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Carlsbad.