Torres works to grow Harvey House Museum

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When it comes to Belen’s Harvey House Museum, former mayor Ronnie Torres has done everything from the glamorous to cleaning up pigeon poop in the 15 years he’s served as volunteer.

Now the museum is officially part of the Belen Public Library, and Torres is the museum’s first paid library employee.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Former Belen Mayor Ronnie Torres, right, is the Belen Harvey House Museum’s first paid employee. Torres was hired as a library employee, since the museum has become an extension of the Belen Public Library. Some of the volunteers, from left, are Jennifer DeMerritt, Clarke Metcalf, Pat Carter and Torres.

He started his part-time position as museum technician in mid-July after being the sole applicant.

With the branch library opening in September, Harvey House Museum volunteers and Torres are bustling around setting up the room as a mini-library full of historical books.

The goal is to turn this room into a one-stop shop that provides information about the history of Belen and the Southwest, where locals can also trace back their family ancestry.

The room, on the north side of the building, will be home to a Southwestern collection, consisting of more than 300 books. Among the collection are journals filled with personal experiences of ranching adventures from families in the region.

At the museum, Torres is known as the “museum liaison.” He said he does “whatever needs to be done around the museum.”

Torres is striving to create a shade structure on one side of the museum, with benches underneath, where visitors can have picnics and watch the trains roll by.

“The past is something that is forgotten, and my dream is that it doesn’t get forgotten,” Torres said.

As he grew older, the 53-year-old began to fall in love with the Hub City’s history passed down to him by older residents. But as they pass away, they take with them a piece of Belen’s past.

“We’re losing it so fast … My mission in life is to save as much history as possible,” he said.

Previously, Torres decorated the small second-floor rooms once used as dormitory rooms for Harvey Girls. Each room is adorned with a collection of artifacts detailing the Hub City’s past.

Torres collected these artifacts throughout the years and assembled each room around a theme of the antique items in each.

Gates keep these prized possessions safe, but allow visitors the chance to have a self-guided tour.

As he stumbles upon browned photographs crinkling at the corners or decorations from former businesses, he continuously changes the exhibits. Themes revolve around former Belen businesses, movies filmed in Belen, small-scale churches, schools, Christmas, beauty shop and the railroad.

“The whole idea is to have different exhibits that will pique the interest of everybody,” he said.

Torres said without the help of volunteers and docents at the Harvey House Museum, it wouldn’t be possible to share this information inside of a historic building today.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.