The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, based in Washington, D.C., has chosen the Loma Colorado Main Library in Rio Rancho to host its traveling exhibition after a highly competitive application process.
The grant-funded traveling exhibit is being done in a partnership with the American Library Association and will make stops at libraries in most states. Rio Rancho is the only stop in New Mexico. The exhibit opens Tuesday, Oct. 12 and will run through Nov. 13 during normal library hours.
The 1,100-square-foot traveling exhibit, titled “Americans and the Holocaust,” examines World War II from the American perspective, exploring themes such as how much Americans knew about Nazi persecutions before it entered the war and its response.
Marla Eglash Abraham, western region director of the museum, said researchers scoured hundreds of local newspapers from across the country and collected individual stories to build the exhibit.
“We wanted to tell the American story, the American narrative,” Eglash Abraham said.
Eglash Abraham said the process was very competitive and that the selection committee looked at several factors, including whether the library had enough space and staff to support the exhibit and programming. One of the most important factors, she said, was location. The libraries they chose needed to be, not necessarily remote, but somewhat off the beaten path.
“We didn’t want to go to typical cities like San Francisco, Chicago or Los Angeles,” she said. “We wanted to go where the Holocaust reach wasn’t as deep. It’s an attempt to bring this to populations that would not usually have access to this type of information.”
Annemarie García, spokeswoman for Rio Rancho, said the city has traditionally been viewed as a bedroom community and this presents an incredible opportunity to have an exhibit of this kind.
“Oftentimes, Rio Rancho residents may have to go somewhere else for this type of cultural exhibit,” she said. “We now have the opportunity to instead bring the exhibit to them.”
According to 2020 Census data, Rio Rancho has a population of approximately 104,000 people with 32.5% of them having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Other places the exhibit will land include Juneau, Alaska; Yuma, Arizona; Fresno, California and Colorado Springs.
The exhibit will feature large panels with pictures, as well as videos. The exhibit will be appropriate for all ages and does not contain anything graphic that would alarming to small children.
Margaret Gates, a docent at the New Mexico Holocaust Museum and Gellert Center for Education in Albuquerque, said they are absolutely elated Rio Rancho is hosting the traveling exhibition. She said some of the museum’s volunteers have volunteered to be docents at the Rio Rancho exhibit.
“The primary reason this is important is so that we don’t forget what happened,” she said. “Awareness might prevent this from happening again.”
Mayor Gregg Hull said pre-COVID, the city’s two libraries saw about 700 people between them daily. He said he believes the exhibit will draw people from outside the city.
“We see this as no different than when people go to Albuquerque and check out the exhibits,” he said. “We expect to draw a lot of attention from Albuquerque and surrounding areas, possibly even Santa Fe.”
The library will offer supplemental programing through October and November to coincide with the exhibit. Events include a seminar that explores the refugee crises during World War II and now, a look at American Japanese interment camps in New Mexico during World War II, and a talk about Jewish films and their place in film history.
Holocaust survivor Andy Holten will share his story about his life as a hidden child during World War II. His parents did not survive. Holten is a long-time substitute teacher with Rio Rancho Public Schools.
“Having the opportunity to bring something to our community that would mean so much to so many is something we are proud to support,” said Lynette Schurdevin, director of library and information services. “Library staff has worked so hard to plan and coordinate this one-of-a-kind exhibit, and we look forward to sharing it with our citizens.”
Complete programming with specific dates and times is available online at rrnm.gov under the “library and information services” tab.
The library is located at 755 Loma Colorado Blvd. NE, Rio Rancho. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.