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Our Stories, Our Treasures, Our Own Community

Our Stories, Our Treasures, Our Own Community

By Greta Weiner

Shelley Thompson,  Director Marketing & Outreach and Publisher El Palacio Magazine for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, considers New Mexico’s museum system and the people who work in it as the “Keepers of the Collections and the Storytellers”.  That’s for two reasons.  1.  Our state museum system has no comparison anywhere.  2.  Before we were a state, the New Mexico territory knew our relics, our stories, our art, were important and should stay here in New Mexico.

Featured artwork above:  Agnes Pelton, Awakening (Memory of Father), 1943, oil on canvas. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Museum purchase, 2005 (2005.27.1) Photo by Blair Clark.

pueblo pottery

Henry C. Balink, Pueblo Pottery, 1917, oil on canvas, 26 1/4 × 32 1/8 in. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Gift of Herman C. and Bina L. Ilfeld, 1977 (2991.23P) Photo by Blair Clark

New Mexico became a state in 1912.  Three years earlier, while still a territory, New Mexicans knew that we had incredible relics, multiple cultures, amazing art and stories to tell.  And they knew we needed to keep that here with us.  And so the first home of our stories were saved for generations in the Palace of the Governors.

This was the beginning of a museum system that boasts 8 museums and 7 historical monuments.  A system that has no equal, though the Smithsonian comes close.  Our museum system is also unique for its size considering the small population our state has compared to other states.  And we’re lucky to have these statewide assets available to us.

Our system now includes: 

NM Museum of Art
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
Museum of International Folk Art
New Mexico Museum of Space History
New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
New Mexico History Museum
New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
National Hispanic Cultural Center

All of which have core exhibits that are on permanent display and visiting exhibits that come and go.

And our museums are very accessible, with free days, library passes, discount passes and more.  (Learn about the library passes here.) While New Mexican’s take care of our stories and treasures, our museums are taking care of us!  There are many studies, too numerous to count that children that vist museums become better thinkers, better readers and overall do better in school.  (Here’s just one in a mem literature review early learning in museums final 4 12 2012 (1))

stories of billy the kid portrait

Billy the Kid portrait inside the courthouse where he was jailed in Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Each museum came about from a desire to keep our relics here.  For example New Mexico is uniquely situated to preserve dinosaur bones.  We used to be a shoreline!  The dinosaurs found here were unlike any found in the rest of the world, and those precious bones were leaving the state.  Now instead, we have our New Mexico National History and Science Museum in Albuquerque.  Each museum has a tale like this to tell.

The museums and historical monuments are all over the state.  Speaking of, are you wondering the difference between a museum and a historical monument?  Historical monuments are in a specific place where a specific piece of history happened.  They may even have a museum at the historical monument. For example the Lincoln Historical Site , New Mexico’s most visited historic monument, tells the best stories of the wild wild west, like Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.  You can venture into a whole town and view life from the 1800’s.

You can learn about all 7 historical monuments here.

They include:

Los Luceros
Lincoln Historical Site
Jemez Historical Site
Fort Sumner Historic Site / Bosque Redondo Memorial
Fort Seldon
Fort Stanton
El Camino Real Historical Trail Site
Coronado Historic Site

And if you’d like to see them all, check out the Culture Pass.

New Mexico’s forefather’s made sure our stories stayed here, make sure you go visit them!


Greta Weiner is the Online Associate Editor of Elbow Room New Mexico, a content creator and online consultant.