Santa Fe Museums and Historic Sites play a special and unique role, as museums and historic sites are concerned. In fact, it’s no wonder that Santa Fe’s Museums are internationally recognized for their place in preserving the extensive culture and history of New Mexico. Maybe more than any other place on earth, Santa Fe has quite the task in preserving and telling the stories of New Mexico’s arts and histories.
Santa Fe is often touted as a world class arts and culture destination. The city’s past is filled with pivotal moments in human progress, from Puebloan agriculture, to the creation of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos. Artists and artistic luminaries like Georgia O’Keeffe, Elliot Porter, Gustave Baumann, Fritz Scholder and Maria Martinez, to name a very small portion of the list (check here for the full list), have called Santa Fe home.
In that sense, Northern New Mexico’s museums and historic sites have a daunting task set before them. Luckily, they are up to the challenge.
The New Mexico Museum of Art, for instance, not only preserves and displays the art and culture of the state, but has played a large role in developing what today is known as one of the US’s top art markets. Built as the gallery wing for the Museum of History in 1917, the museum originally had an “open door” policy, allowing local artists to display their works. This welcome attracted many artists with formal training from across the country which resulted a cross-blending of Native American, Hispanic, and European-based cultures which would ultimately create a unique body of work that is the basis of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s current collection, as well as the basis for what is today thought of as the “Santa Fe style”.
While New Mexico’s current artistic climate has very much been influenced by the work of the New Mexico Museum of Art itself, the New Mexico History Museum on the other hand, is very much defined by the state’s past.
The New Mexican territory has a recorded history reaching far beyond the United States constitution, the settling of the west by Europeans, or even the first Spanish missions to cross southwest North America (evidence from archaeologists conveys the existence of humans back to approximately 9200 BCE). New Mexican historians have their job cut out for them, between the oral histories of native peoples and the written documentations of the Spanish conquests and later European expansion, there are certainly no lack of exhibition topics for the New Mexico History Museum.
The facilities themselves tell the story of Santa Fe in a nutshell. A 30,000 square foot nutshell, that is. The New Mexico History Museum is in fact the state’s newest museum, attached, however, to the state’s oldest Museum, the Palace of the Governors, which boasts being the oldest continuously occupied government building in the United States. Whether intended by the architects, or by happenstance, this marriage of old and new reflects nearly every aspect of life in New Mexico.
Whether you’re looking for the culture of ancient civilizations that have called this area home, or the more recent histories of artists and inventors whom New Mexico has influenced, rest assured, you can find all New Mexico has to offer, past and present, at any one of Santa Fe’s quite necessary museums or historic sites.