A spinning wheel here, some fossils there and chunks of rich tradition was found in the halls of the New Mexico State Legislature on Monday, March 4. 

With wool in her hand undergoing a simple transformation, Luann McConnell traveled as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico to share her values of spinning wool. 

“I have been spinning for over thirty years and it is so much fun. It’s relaxing and it’s productive,” McConnell said. “It’s also a connection to the past because spinning is as old as civilization — to me, spinning links us to our past.” 

McConnell said she has volunteered spinning at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces for more than a year. She said her husband also volunteers there as a blacksmith. 

Donning a blue dress with a white apron, McConnell methodically stretched a piece of wool while tapping her foot as onlookers at the Roundhouse stopped to watch the process. 

A dinosaur skull brought kids to a table hosted by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, but another table encouraged visitors to interact with their display. 

On one side of a blue clothed table were thick, cyan bottles from the early 1900s, rusted out horse and oxen shoes and a collection of arrowheads. On the other side were pots, decorated with southwest indigenous designs, cotton, yucca rope and replicas of indigenous necessities. 

As visitors stopped by, Eric Blinman, the director of the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies, could be heard encouraging visitors to touch what was on display. 

“The big point is that people don’t get a chance to touch, feel, and get a sense of what this stuff is when it’s behind museum glass — so we try to stress hands on opportunities within education,” Blinman said.

Holding a piece of rope made from the Yucca plant, Blinman said it is equivalent to modern-day rope made from Sisal, a type of agave plant. 

Among the collection was an object similar to that of a backpack. However, instead of shoulder straps carrying the weight, Blinman demonstrated the use of the backpack’s headband meant to better displace weight from the forehead — a technique utilized by cultures all over the world. 

“People have this innate bias to think that all of this is primitive, but it’s not,” Blinman said. “It’s incredibly sophisticated and clever.” 

About seven tables lined the west and east corridors of the Roundhouse and each shared an aspect of New Mexican culture. Lawmakers come together from all corners of the state, but the Roundhouse attracts out-of-state visitors like Michele Barlow, who recently moved from Wyoming. Barlow said the archaeology tables caught her eye.

“For me, it’s really helpful in terms of basic education and orientation to what lies ahead for me to explore — just the depth and breadth of what New Mexico is all about,” Barlow said.

Anthony Jackson is photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at photoeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.