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New Mexico History Museum

Santa Fe, New Mexico


  • Local Interests:

Actually, my main objective when I went downtown Santa Fe was to visit the Palace of the Governors. I have been reading about it for a number of years and each trip out that way I have had every intention to stop. But, as I was recapping my research I becameNew Mexico History Museum interested in this museum and lucky for me it was next door. I am glad I visited, but wish I had been able to stay longer. Did not get to see everything. I will plan better for our next trip so I can finish seeing everyting.

The New Mexico History Museum, in Santa Fe, sweeps across more than 500 years of stories - from early Native inhabitants to today's residents - with stories told through artifacts, films, photographs, computer interactives, oral histories and more. The Museum, along with The Palace of the Governors, look at the people who made the American West: Native Americans, Spanish colonists, Mexican traders, Santa Fe Trail riders, fur trappers, outlaws, railroad men, scientists, hippies and artists.

Exhibits are divided into six sections representing chronological periods from the pre-colonial era to the present. Each is set apart by time frames and contrasting views from first-person accounts of the people who lived during the different periods. Each section serves as a history center for research, education, and lifelong learning, delivering quality programs that encourage knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of New Mexico's diverse cultures of its time.

The New Mexico History Museum, opened in May 2009, has changed the way that New Mexicans and visitors understand state history and the history of the nation. The Museum includes permanent and temporary exhibitions that span the early history of New Mexico History Museum indigenous people, Spanish colonization, the Mexican Period, and travel and commerce on the legendary Santa Fe Trail.

The museum serves as the anchor of a campus that encompasses the Palace of the Governors, the Palace Press, the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library and Photo Archives. The Museum construction includes an environmentally-sound 8,381 square-foot storage vault for the artifact collections. In recognition of its unique and historically significant collections, the museum was awarded grants by three national organizations.

History as told by the New Mexico History Museum

AREA 1 BEYOND HISTORY'S RECORDS - Visitors enter the exhibition in a curved space that mimics a cliff wall above a river. Cast-metal handprints of modern-day Native residents are triggered by your hand's touch to play audios of how New Mexico's longest inhabitants viewed the land around them. Pottery, baskets and jewelry from pre-European contact convey the first gallery's main message: Native peoples have lived across present-day New Mexico for thousands of years. They have explored throughout the region and traded with other peoples across North and Central America. The American Southwest remains their home, never empty nor waiting to be discovered, neither a frontier nor a paradise. New Mexico History Museum

AREA 2 THE FAR NORTHERN FRONTIER - The Spanish join the story at the beginning of the next gallery. Chasing legends of gold, the first Spanish explorers pushed into New Mexico in the early 1500s. They found much hardship but no gold, and returned to Mexico or Spain or perished on the way. At the end of the century, Juan de Onate and his 500 followers founded a capital in northern New Mexico.

   For the next 200 years, the Spanish struggled to establish a colony in New Mexico. Missionaries, aristocrats and settlers competed among themselves for land and power. Soldiers and settlers exploited Native American labor, imposed taxes and claimed vast tracts of land. Missionaries sought Christian converts, suppressing Native customs and religion. Spanish and Native life ways mixed and clashed. Exchange and interaction changed both cultures. New Mexico History Museum

AREA 3 LINKING NATIONS - In 1821, the people of Mexico threw off the rule of the Spanish king and created a new nation--the Republic of Mexico, which included present-day New Mexico. Mexicans enjoyed new freedoms to own property, earn a living, and trade. But the new nation also had growing pains. In 1846, the United States invaded and, in a two-year war, defeated the new republic.

   New Mexicans joined a new republic and grappled with a mixture of new laws and immigrants, and old frustrations. In August 1837, Indian peoples and settlers in northern New Mexico began the Chimayo Rebellion. Though they professed loyalty to the republic, they protested taxes from Mexico City and the appointed governors. Gov. Albino Perez was killed, but the rebellion was crushed.

   The same year that Mexico won independence from Spain, a Missouri trader named William Becknell reached Santa Fe. His path came to be called the Santa Fe Trail--the first and most important of the pathways connecting New Mexico with the United States. The Santa Fe Trail was part of a network that opened up commerce across the Southwest. That commerce led to partnerships, settlements, marriages and friction among New Mexicans, Native Americans and Anglo-Americans - results were more American influence. New Mexico History Museum

   Many Americans considered it the nation's destiny to rule the continent west to the Pacific. New Mexico was caught in the middle. California was the most important goal, but the United States also hoped to pry New Mexico from the Mexican republic, by force if necessary. Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny invaded New Mexico in 1846 and installed a military government. Col. Alexander William Doniphan defeated the Mexican army at the Battle of Brazito, near El Paso.

   Many New Mexicans deeply resented U.S. occupation. In 1847, hundreds of Native Americans and Hispanic New Mexicans led by Tomas Ortiz, or "Tomasito," and Pablo Montoya rebelled against the U.S. territorial government and its appointed officials. Gov. Charles Bent and other officials near Taos were assassinated. U.S. troops from Santa Fe quickly crushed the rebellion, and resistance to the American invasion faded.

AREA 4 BECOMING THE SOUTHWEST - With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexico lost vast territories, New Mexicans lost their country, and most of modern-day New Mexico became part of the United States. Becoming the "American Southwest" involved decades of accommodation, struggle and violence.

   The U.S. Army established a string of forts across New Mexico, and Native Americans responded with decades of resistance. Army leaders tried to confine Native Americans to a life of farming and raising livestock on reservations. New Mexico History Museum

   Who owned New Mexico's land and water-the earth, the king, the people who cared for them, the holders of deeds? Conflicts over land and water created friction and confusion and sometimes erupted in violence, as in the Colfax County and the Lincoln County wars. New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest earned reputations for lawlessness in the late 1800s.The legend of Billy the Kid was born.

  By the 1880s, the railroad began to transform New Mexico. Trains brought in machinery, workers and manufactured goods-and left with ore, cattle, lumber and agricultural products. As railroads crisscrossed the state, ranching, mining, the timber industry and tourism grew up around them. The railroads brought more newcomers to New Mexico and spread word of the enchanting territory. People came for their health, art, the natural beauty, curiosity, scientific interest, to see Native Americans and to make money. They transformed the territory.

AREA 5 OUR PLACE IN THE NATION - New Mexico connects to the nation and the world. Conflicts and challenges- local, national and international-have profound impacts in New Mexico. To become a state, New Mexico struggled to overcome prejudice against Hispanics and Native Americans, political corruption, its reputation for violence and Washington politics. After some 60 years as a territory, New Mexico drafted a constitution and joined the United States on January 6, 1912.

   The effects of the Great Depression were as complicated as New Mexico itself. Some areas suffered greatly, but new federal money poured into the state for agricultural aid and other projects. The Works Progress Administration and other government agencies helped artists, writers, photographers and many others.

   Some 60,000 New Mexicans enlisted in armed forces for WWII. In the early years of the war, New Mexico suffered the highest casualty rate of any state. Displays on the Bataan Death March, Native American code talkers and Japanese internment camps show how New Mexicans were affected by World War II at home and on the battlefield.

   At Los Alamos, the U.S. government assembled the greatest concentration of scientific resources and brainpower in history to develop the atom bomb-and keep it a secret. The project changed New Mexico by bringing money, scientists and nuclear technology to the state. The bomb changed the world, and concerns about the atomic age began to grow. (We have a section on Los Alamos)

   In the "Boom" theater, see five short documentaries on the changes New Mexico experienced post-WWII: Route 66, civil rights and land-grant struggles, hippies, continued atomic research, and the sprawling growth of our cities.

AREA 6 MY NEW MEXICO - The past lives in the present. Our memories and traditions will become New Mexico's history. Whether cowboy, miner, immigrant or scientist, whatever your ethnic or religious background, the stories of New Mexicans today reveal unbroken connections to the past. Our work in ranching, mining, tourism, government, oil and gas, and technology; our ceremonies of celebration; our festivals of feasting and fun; our oral traditions, and our families-these are the stories that touch on all that is important in the long life of an ancient land that became our New Mexico.

10 am to 5 pm daily

May through October
Open for free 5 to 8 pm Fridays

November through April
Closed Mondays
Open for free first Friday of the month.

Closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Additional Info:
Free on Sunday to New Mexico residents
Free on Wednesday to New Mexico senior citizens
Free to Museum Members and children under 17
Free Friday Evenings, 5 to 8 pm

New Mexico History Museum
On the Historic Plaza in Santa Fe
Next to the Palace of the Governors
113 Lincoln Avenue
Santa Fe, New Mexico