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20 • JULY 2017

CLAY Matters

The Silver City CLAY Festival encompasses so many things, they can hardly be captured and described in any small space. One of the original organizers, Lee Gruber, has described the festival as part of a river of clay, extending through New Mexico as the basis of yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s civilization in the state. From mining legacy to home building in mud, this year’s event is nine days packed

(Clay photos by Elva K. Österreich)

At left, “Sunrise at the Combo” is taken at a combination mine b erated in the Central Mining District of Grant County near the tow Masterwork” depicts a hand-fitted, mortarless wall built in 1905 City narrow gauge railroad which ran from Silver City to Pinos Al “Vacancy in the Chair” depicts an old chair made for the hoist op Ann McMahon)


Mining Legacy Exploration CLAY Festival features connections of earth and man


s the Earth shifts and changes over millennia, it creates patterns, streaks, waves of material that appear and act in turn to support the humans who rely on its bounty. The layers of minerals, from silver to copper to clay, have created tangible, interwoven support for the people of New Mexico through their ages of existence, so this year the Silver City CLAY Festival has included the mineral layers of the Earth among its programs. Tours of Boston Hill and its secrets, a mining exhibition and lectures on Grant County mining history have been incorporated into the festival for a better understanding of the substance of the area. Photographer Ann McMahon spent the last four years touring and imaging nine of the 16 mining districts of Grant County with cohort and mining expert Andrew Lindlof. The history of the mines is disappearing in front of her, she said. They have seen precious, rare artifacts disappear since they started their explorations. But some of the discoveries have been thrilling. “We found an unvandalized mining camp from 1947,” McMahon said. “There was a little house, a shed. We could see they mixed concrete with bare hands, there

were handprints in the concrete.” And sometimes there were surprises. As she looked around in the darkness of that little house, McMahon heard scrabbling in a hole in the wall and suddenly a little face came through the hole — a baby possum. “It’s just beautiful what you see,” she said. “I’m just grateful to be in a position to do this (exploration).” During their adventures McMahon and Lindlof found a unique narrow gauge railroad track and a morterless wall, still standing, built in 1905. McMahon is working on creating a portfolio of her work on the mining legacy of Grant County, “The Disappearing Mining Landscape of Grant County.” An exhibition of the same name at the Silver City Historical Museum is on display and will have its reception during the CLAY Festival at 3:30 p.m. on July 28. Virginia McLemore, a senior economic geologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, will be talking about the history of mining in Grant County and how yesterday’s mining is different than the mining of the future. “The mines of the past have left a legacy we are trying to deal with and we are doing research on what some of the dangers of the past are,” she said. “The mining

industry is so safe today because people lost their lives or were injured to make those rules and regulations we have defined.” Mines are the result of a specific geologic process found only in certain areas of the world, McLemore said. The materials mined in Grant County are important to the everyday lives of everybody. “That’s how we get toothpaste, cell phones, computers, TVs,” she said. “Even the food that you eat depends on mining.” The legacy of mining is important because it ties people to their roots. “It’s part of our past,” McLemore said. “Where we come from is what has defined us. We preserve the legacy to learn from our mistakes.” McLemore authored a new resource map on mining districts and prospect areas in New Mexico, scheduled to be released this year. Her lecture, “The Geology and Mining History of Mining Districts in Grant County, New Mexico,” is scheduled at noon Thursday, July 27, at the Silver City Historical Museum Annex, 302 W. Broadway Ave. Both walking and bus mining legacy tours are scheduled during festival week in Silver City.

Desert Exposure - July 2017  
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