Museum of New Mexico

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The Museum of New Mexico was established in 1909 by the Territorial government of New Mexico under House Bill 100. This pre-statehood legislation mandated that the Museum of New Mexico (MNM) be housed with the School of American Archaeology in the Palace of the Governors.[1]Over the years, the Museum of New Mexico grew and reorganized several times to include the New Mexico Museum of Art, Laboratory of Anthropology, Museum of International Folk Art and the historic sites of Coronado, Fort Selden, Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner, Jémez, Lincoln, and El Camino Real Historic Trail Site.[2] The Museum of New Mexico was eventually reorganized under the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), which was established in April 2003 after Governor Bill Richardson signed legislation elevating the former Office of Cultural Affairs to Cabinet-level status.[3]

Traveling Exhibits Program (1909-2005)[edit]

The Museum of New Mexico Traveling Exhibits Program was the first museum traveling exhibits program in the United States and the longest running until it was discontinued in 2005.[citation needed]

Early history[edit]

Edgar L. Hewett, the first director of the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe, established the vision for the museum's traveling exhibits program in 1909, the year the museum was founded. Artifacts from excavations at two archaeological sites, Rito de los Frijoles (later renamed Bandelier National Monument), and Puye, were circulated and presented in facilities including high schools, chambers of commerce, women's clubs, and public libraries. During the 1930s the museum had a large WPA program, which organized rotating exhibits that traveled to fourteen communities. The program was suspended between 1941-1943 when the war effort made it impossible to continue. In 1944, after a trip around the state by museum officials, community contacts were renewed, and a new plan was hatched to travel exhibits of New Mexico artists. Before the end of the year, six communities had signed on for "Museum of New Mexico Traveling Exhibitions", a series of one-person exhibits that could be booked bi-monthly or quarterly. The service was free of charge, but in return the Museum of New Mexico requested that participating communities establish fine arts committees to handle local arrangements and host opening receptions for the public.[citation needed]

The fine arts exhibitions program, as it was known, provided rural communities throughout New Mexico with cultural experiences and access to the art of their state with the goal of increasing public appreciation of art. At the same time, the artists selected for these one-person shows gained exposure, with the goal of boosting the sale of their work. The shows were curated by museum personnel but the works were borrowed from the artists, who offered them for sale. In addition to these one-person shows, in 1945-46 museum curators organized theme shows drawn from the collections that highlighted the artistic traditions of the state, such as "New Mexico Retablos", "New Mexico Indian Design", and "New Mexico Architecture". Each season a museum curator would travel around the state to meet with the fine arts committees and develop the exhibit schedules. The program grew from 14 to 21 participating communities.[citation needed]

In 1948 the fine arts exhibitions program organized its first show to travel nationally, the Blumenshein Retrospective Exhibition" featuring the work of Taos artists Ernest Leonard Blumenschein, a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists noted for paintings of Native American, New Mexico and American Southwest subjects. Out-of-state venues in Kansas City, Wichita, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Omaha, and Laramie paid for shipping and insurance. By the 1950-51 season eighteen communities in New Mexico and Texas booked shows.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "100 Years of the MNM". New Mexico Museum of Art. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Museums and Historic Sites". Museum of New Mexico. New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Who We Are". El Palacio. New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Hartley, Cody (2005). "Art in an arid climate : the Museum of New Mexico and the cultivation of the arts in Santa Fe" (Thesis). University of California. 

External links[edit]