Smithsonian food exhibit coming to ENMU

By Casey Peacock: Freedom Newspapers

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit about food in America will travel to Portales in late February for a six-week stay.

“Key Ingredients: America by Food” will be on display in the Golden Library at Eastern New Mexico University.

“I think this is an opportunity of a lifetime to have an exhibit like this in Portales,” said ENMU media services librarian Poppy Johnson-Renvall.

“Key Ingredients” is “a provocative and thoughtful look at the historical, regional and social traditions that merge in everyday meals and celebrations,” according to the Smithsonian’s Web site.

Johnson-Renvall and Merlene Olmsted, professor of family and consumer sciences at ENMU, are working together to plan various activities that will be held in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit. The duo and a committee of local members have been planning for the exhibit since last fall, they said.

“It’s an opportunity, it’s an education. What could be better?” Olmsted said of the exhibit.

Portales will be one of 150 rural communities hosting the exhibition through 2008 and the last stop on a six-stop tour through New Mexico. The exhibit has already been displayed in Acoma and is in Questa. Other stops include Bernallio, Chama and Artesia. Johnson-Renvall has already traveled to Acoma to see the exhibit and experience firsthand how it is set up and displayed, she said.

“It’s going to look like a maze with artifacts from the Smithsonian and from our area,” Johnson-Renvall said.

Organizers are planning to have local vendors, especially those that specialize in food and food products, and businesses set up in the lobby of the Golden Library, said Johnson-Renvall.

Other events planned include an exhibit of 100 years of aprons, Iron Chef competition, food samples, a cookbook display and recipe exchange. A marketplace, similar to the Peanut Valley Festival, will be set up in the Campus Union Building at some point during the exhibit’s stay, Johnson-Renvall said.

With such a diverse community, plans are to provide several activities in an effort to draw the community together and share different cultures, especially those related to food, she said.

“We want people to come and be involved,” Johnson-Renvall said.

The exhibit will be hosted by the Golden Library, Roosevelt County Cooperative Extension Service and Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce. The exhibit is also being sponsored by the New Mexico Humanities Council, said Johnson-Renvall.

What: “Key Ingredients: America By Food” — An exhibit of the Smithsonian Institution

Where: Eastern New Mexico University Golden Library

When: Feb. 23 to April 4, 2008

Information: Poppy Johnson-Renvall at 562-2602 or

Volunteers and donations of prizes for drawings for the various events and token gifts for the volunteers are needed.

Sponsors for the exhibit and various events are also needed.