NMSU History in the University Archives

Hiram Hadley surely had little idea in 1889, when he took the job of leading New Mexico’s newly founded agricultural college near Las Cruces, what New Mexico State University ultimately would become, or the impact it would have on so many residents of New Mexico and beyond. For 130 years, the school has been one of the leading institutions in the state of New Mexico. The university has positively impacted countless lives – not only the tens of thousands of students who have walked its campuses, but also the employees who have worked and taught here, the residents of the state and region who have benefitted from its research, extension programs, and auxiliary economic impacts, and the families that have been proud Aggie supporters.

Black and white photograph of Hiram Hadley

Hiram Hadley, visionary first president of what has become New Mexico State University. (UA09500005)

You can imagine that over the course of the university’s history, it has produced a prodigious amount of paperwork. And you may wonder, what has become of all those records. The Hobson-Huntsinger University Archives, housed in the NMSU Library, Branson Hall, holds a good deal of those historical records. More than 4,000 linear feet of papers produced by administrative offices, colleges, departments, auxiliary services, committees, clubs, individual faculty, and students are stored in conditions conducive to their long-term preservation in the University Archives. Stacked side-by-side, all those boxes would cover the length of Aggie Memorial Stadium, goal line to goal line, about 14 times.  

Not all records produced by the university, or by any institution, can be, or should be, preserved forever. Once records are no longer needed for the purpose they were created, they are evaluated to determine their long-term importance and retention. The state of New Mexico produces “retention schedules” that legally mandate how long certain types of official records are to be kept. Records that are determined to have value because they document the functioning, accountability, development, and history of the university make their way to the University Archives. 

What will you find in all the boxes of historical records we keep? Just about anything you can think of relating to NMSU history, and probably a lot of things you might never imagine. For instance, the records of the presidents of the university run from the original correspondence, journals, speeches and business records of our first president, Hiram Hadley, up to the records produced by the most recent administrations. We hold a complete set of board of regents’ minutes from 1889 up to the present. Records of the colleges and departments include administrative information, but also papers of faculty members, such as Fabian Garcia, Ralph Willis Goddard (ever wonder what the KRWG call letters stood for?), Clyde Tombaugh, Mark Medoff, and many others. The Aggie Sports Archive includes extensive documentation about student athletes and sports, including game programs, media guides, box scores, clippings, photographs, films and videotapes, from the beginnings of the college to the present. University produced publications, such as undergrad and graduate catalogs, yearbooks, student newspapers (both the Round Up as well as many “underground” publications), annual reports, extension circulars and bulletins, and more, are excellent sources of university history. Photographs in the University Archives number in the hundreds of thousands and depict every aspect of the university’s past.

Image of draft of speech by Fabian Garcia on death of Hiram Hadley, 1922

Draft of a memorial address by Fabian Garcia given on the death of Hiram Hadley, 1922. (Fabian Garcia papers, Ms0071)

It should be obvious by now that a blog post like this can come nowhere near giving a complete indication of the extent of valuable materials on university history that can be found in the University Archives. Fortunately, all these materials are available for use in the Caroline E. Stras Reading Room, 4th floor of Branson Library. Our friendly and helpful staff will do its best to help you find what you seek. A great deal of material is available online as well in the NMSU Library Digital Collections, where you can access comprehensive digital versions of University Archives holdings, including famed astronomer Clyde Tombaugh’s papers. You can learn more about the University Archives at https://lib.nmsu.edu/archives/ua.html.


Black and white photograph of McFie Hall, or Old Main, with cadets standing in front, taken around 1900 to 1910.

Cadets from the Military Department stand in formation in front of McFie Hall, also called Old Main, around 1905-1910. Old Main was the first building on the New Mexico Agricultural College campus. (UA03260009)

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