A Grand Dame of the Printing Arts

June 23rd, 2017 by Kate Nelson

Joining our friends group, the Palace Guard, carries perks. Among them: a series of field trips, including a September visit to an unknown gem of Santa Fe.

300-JackLemonJack Lemon (at left) founded Landfall Press in Chicago in 1970. Eleven years ago, he moved the operation here, carrying a legacy of working with international artists and fine stone lithography.

To better understand the role that lithographic images played in forming people’s opinions of the Civil War, Palace Press Director Tom Leech arranged a special tour and a demonstration on Landfall’s mammoth Marinoni Voirin press. (See a cool video here.)

With Meredith Davidson and Daniel Kosharek, Leech co-curated our exhibit, Fading Memories: Echoes of the Civil War. His portion explores how mass distribution of lithographic images shaped the opinions of a largely illiterate public. Pointing to Landfall’s precious stone bearing an image of Frederick Douglass, Leech noted that it was made by Louis Kurz of the Kurz and Allison publishing team.

“In our exhibit, The Fort Pillow Massacre is one outstanding example of their work,” he said. “These prints were sold to survivors and families as memorial pieces that glorified the war. Somewhere along the line, Kurz’s conscience got to him, and he included black soldiers in a way that was very honorable.”

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Seeing the Palace Through a Pinhole

June 23rd, 2017 by Kate Nelson

PalacePinhole (2)

During the 2012 Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, Heather Oelklaus, a photographer and print workshop supervisor at Colorado College, was talking with some friends about the wonders of capturing the world the old-fashioned way. One of them asked her about the largest pinhole camera she’d ever used. At that point, it was an aluminum trash can that required two pieces of 16×20” photo paper for film. But the question made her want to go even bigger.

“I proclaimed that by next year’s pinhole day, I would be shooting with a truck,” she said.

LittleMissSunshineIt took some scouting around before she found a 14-foot 1977 Chevy box truck with an uncanny resemblance to a yellow Kodak film box. She tackled drilling, painting, designing and light-tighting it while her imagination reeled out possible photo opps. In 2013, the newly designed pinhole truck, dubbed Little Miss Sunshine, took to the open road, shooting enough images to stage a show this year at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo, Colo.

By then, Oelklaus (learn more about her by clicking here) had fallen in love with our exhibit, Poetics of Light: Pinhole Photography. “When I saw it the first time, I wept,” she said. “It sounds melodramatic, but to know there were people and a museum that understood what I loved about pinhole photography overwhelmed me.”

Photo Curator Daniel Kosharek and Palace Press Curator Tom Leech found out about her big truck and hatched a plot to shoot our beloved Palace of the Governors.

IMG_4876-300This fall, Oelklaus arrived on a beautiful morning and recruited nine people to place 84 pieces of black-and-white darkroom paper on the truck’s walls, using tiny magnets. The Palace was exposed for 60 minutes, then the sheets were taken into a darkroom to develop.

“As the prints were coming out of the darkroom, many of the participants enjoyed putting the large-scale puzzle together so we could see the fruit of our labor,” she said.

We’re now looking for the perfect place to display the 5×20’ image, a grand celebration of pinhole artistry.

“The outside world squeezing through this tiny aperture and being projected on the inside of my camera truck inspires me,” Oelklaus said. “Recording the world differently and over long periods of time is a main theme for my recent work.”

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Money, money, money

June 23rd, 2017 by Kate Nelson

Stucco2_10-15Do you ever wonder how the History Museum pays for all the wonderful exhibits we have? Or its knowledgeable staff? Or that fabulous lecture? The answer is … well, it’s complicated.

Under this year’s budget, the state of New Mexico provided about $2.8 million for operating costs, including salaries, utilities, and supplies. Last year’s Legislature provided an additional $680,000 for capital improvements, which includes the ongoing Palace renovation. (That’s museum Director Andrew Wulf on the right, talking with Elmo Griego of Longhorn Construction, which is overseeing the Palace stucco project.)

The Museum of New Mexico Foundation will raise another $550,000 or so this year for exhibits and programs—although that sum is a moving target, given two new major exhibits opening in May. The museum also enjoys generous support from Los Compadres, who members have repeatedly stepped up to raise money for all manner of special projects. Foundation and museum staff also collaborates to apply for grants that produce even more money, usually for public programs like lectures and symposia.

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Wanted: Great Ideas for Family Programs

February 24th, 2016 by Kate Nelson

4-72-FamilyFunDay_HidePaintingWhat are some of your favorite memories of visiting museums when you were a child? What do your own children remember from your family’s trips? What makes families want to come back to a museum? How can we be more family friendly?

Those are some of the questions we’ve been asking ourselves lately. Now we want you to join the conversation.

Growing out of a chat between Director Andrew Wulf and Educator Melanie LaBorwit about the kinds of cultural activities each of them enjoy with their children, we recently launched a new committee. We wanted experts on family fun, so turned first to staffers who just so happen to be parents. With them, we’re sharing individual experiences with children in museums.

LaBorwit leads the monthly meetings, seeking ideas and ways to flesh out new family initiatives. Among our goals is developing new interactive spaces where people of all ages can learn together and creatively enjoy the museum.

Look for a launch of our summer camp, Time Trekkers, coming up soon with hands-on projects and fun activities. Registration will open this spring. Also, join us every third Sunday of every month for free, hands-on Families Make History workshops.

For more information or to share your ideas for family programs, contact LaBorwit at Melanie.Laborwit@state.nm.us or 505-476-5044.


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Early Childhood Education Thrives at the Museum

February 23rd, 2016 by Kate Nelson

HeadStart-puppettheaterIn just over two years, the New Mexico History Museum’s pre-K program for local Head Start classrooms provided more than 1,500 free visits and classroom time to children, parents and teachers. Begun with generous funding by the Brindle Foundation, it faced a sad demise at the end of 2015 until two angels arrived. Stephen and Jane Hochberg, longtime supporters of the museum, have provided funds to keep the program alive and begin expanding it.

The newly named Hochberg Early Childhood Education Academy “is a marquee program for the museum because it is a core piece of outreach,” Director Andrew Wulf said. “We’re offering the opportunity for early childhood–age visitors to come to the museum with their families in a structured and educationally fulfilling experience.”

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Time Tripping with the Palace Guard

February 22nd, 2016 by Kate Nelson

Members of the Palace Guard pose for a picture during their 2015 visit to Jemez Historic Site.

Members of the Palace Guard pose for a picture during their 2015 visit to Jemez Historic Site.

The Palace Guard serves as the “friends” group for the New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors. Participants pay for a higher level of membership within the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, which helps support educational programs and other essentials. In return, members gain access to backstage tours and field trips to broaden their grasp of the art, culture and history of the Southwest.

This year, the Palace Guard’s volunteer steering committee, under the chairmanship of Michael Ettema, took the lead in plotting out a variety of trips and programs.

“We wanted to give more power to them,” said Meredith Davidson, curator of 19th– and 20th-century Southwest collections. “We wanted to pull from their knowledge and specific interests. And they are passionate about several overnight trips we’re offering this year.”

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Volunteer Training Produces a Bumper Crop

February 21st, 2016 by Kate Nelson

docent-2This year’s training for New Mexico History Museum guides attracted more than 40 signups—the largest group in recent memory. Every Tuesday morning, they gather for a talk on some aspect of New Mexico history, combined with a walk-through of the relevant parts of our exhibits. There, Education Programs Manager René Harris and Educator Melanie LaBorwit note ways to engage visitors by combining the earlier lecture’s lessons with artifacts, maps and photographs.

Guest speakers include former Palace Director Tom Chávez and State Historian Rick Hendricks, along with Richard Melzer, Kathy Flynn, Porter Swentzell, and Dedie Snow. Current museum guides and Historical Downtown Walking Tour guides are welcome to attend the lectures for ongoing learning, as are museum staffers (supervisors willing).

“We have a really wide range of folks interested in volunteering this year,” Harris said. “Some are lifelong New Mexicans, and some have very recently relocated. There are retired attorneys, a physician, university faculty members, a public-relations professional, a corporate manager, business and public school administrators, teachers, federal government employees, and a computer programmer. It’s a diverse group of retirees.”

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From a Purr to a Roar: Lowriders Speak

February 19th, 2016 by Kate Nelson


Chris Martinez in his lowrider. Photo by Don Usner.

Chris Martinez in his lowrider. Photo by Don Usner.

When Lowriders, Hoppers and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico opens in our second-floor Herzstein Gallery on May 1, visitors will get a chance to hear the story of the lowrider lifestyle directly from the practitioners themselves. Photo Curator Daniel Kosharek enlisted the help of 19th– and 20th-Century Southwest Curator Meredith Davidson to interview a host of lowriders from Las Vegas, Chimayó, Española, Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Davidson, who honed her oral-history chops while working for the 9-11 Memorial Museum in New York City, then edited down the results into a 45-minute video loop that will play on iPads placed throughout the exhibit.

“I think it’s important that the lowriders tell their own stories,” Kosharek said. “If I were to go to an exhibit like this somewhere, I would want to get inside the culture, not have the museum put a level of interpretation onto it.”

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The Generosity of Friends

February 10th, 2016 by Kate Nelson

Artist Gustave Baumann created this autumn-toned color wheel in 1930.

Artist Gustave Baumann created this autumn-toned color wheel in 1930.

Not all of Santa’s presents end up underneath someone’s Christmas tree. Quite a few of them landed in our collections.

Generous donors surprised and delighted us with some remarkable year-end gifts. We’re still sorting through the record-keeping details, but here’s a peek at a few donations that will help us better tell the story of New Mexico.

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A Monthly Play (and Learning) Date at the Museum

February 9th, 2016 by Kate Nelson

4-72-FamilyFunDay_HidePaintingDebuting this January, our education team’s free Families Make History workshops have taken over the museum the third Sunday of each month. Featuring drop-in, hands-on activities—like hide painting, colcha embroidery, traditional indigenous seed balls, calligraphy, kite-making and more—the 1:30–3:30 pm events are open to all ages. (Children must be accompanied by an adult, and adults would do well to bring their inner-child.)

“The family programs we’ve done on First Friday Evenings and in conjunction with our changing exhibits have been very successful,” said Education Programs Manager René Harris. “People of all ages enjoy getting their hands—and clothes—dirty as they learn new skills and build a new appreciation for traditional pastimes, arts and activities.”

Best of all, the activities don’t require a steep time commitment, and you can test out a skill before investing in your own crafts materials.

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