The “Threads of Memory” Sews Up Big Numbers

Whether in person or online, it seems, you like us. You really, really like us.

During the Oct. 16-Jan.9 run for The Threads of Memory: Spain and the United States (El Hilo de la Memoria: España y los Estados Unidos), the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors welcomed 19,337 visitors. That number included 22 school groups of 813 students from around the state, and an additional 1,054 children who came through with friends and families, or schools that did not use our school registration site.

The French Ship La Belle, 1684. Sevilla. Archivo General de Indias. MP-Ingenios y Muestras, 9.

The French Ship La Belle, 1684. Sevilla. Archivo General de Indias. MP-Ingenios y Muestras, 9.

The exhibition’s lectures and performances attracted another 848 visitors.

The herculean efforts of staffers to create an online exhibit paid off: Since Oct. 17, the Threads of Memory web site accounted for 16,414 page views. Although we can’t claim a direct causality, during the exhibit’s 11-week run, the web site saw:

• A 21 percent increase in visitors

• A 49 percent increase in pages viewed

• A 23 percent increase in the average number of pages per visit

• A 13 percent increase in the average amount of time on site

We were honored to be chosen by the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) for the exhibit’s U.S. debut and delighted to work with our international partners, including the Fundación Rafael del Pino, the State Corporation for the Spanish Cultural Action Abroad (Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural Exterior, or SEACEX), and Spain’s Ministries for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Culture.

The web site remains a valuable tool for teachers and others interested in the roots of Spanish life in the United States. And if you weren’t able to see the exhibit while it was at the History Museum, it’s at the El Paso Museum of History through April 24; then at the Historic New Orleans Collection May 10 – July 10, before heading back to Spain.

“The Threads of Memory”: A New Teaching Tool

LongViewI-VI_72_6x4With the able help of UNM professors (Rebecca Sanchez, Mercedes Valenzuela and Ron Taylor) , the History Museum is proud to announce the online addition of lesson plans to help teachers deepen students’ understanding of the exhibition The Threads of Memory: Spain and the United States. The exhibition, on loan from the General Archive of the Indies in Spain, is making its U.S. debut at the museum through Jan. 9. (It then travels to El Paso and New Orleans before heading back to Spain — making this a rare opportunity to see it.)

Why does it matter? The first known European chronicles describing the lands and native peoples of what is now the United States were written not by pilgrims but by Spanish explorers. Spain’s presence on the continent evolved over 309 years—from April 12, 1513, when Juan Ponce de León took possession of the Florida coast for the king of Spain, to 1822, when a newly independent Mexico lowered the Spanish flag in California. Created in Spain, The Threads of Memory explores a heritage that most Americans missed in their American History classes.

Many of today’s issues – immigration, land grants, cultural traditions, and complex interrelationships among cultures – can be traced to how our predecessors responded to Spain’s role in the American story. When history books too often told the American story from an east-to-west point of view, the role played by Spain faded into the background, if it was even mentioned at all.

4-EH_Washington_72_6x4Many of us were taught how important France’s aid was to achieving U.S.  independence, but far fewer know that Spain’s financial aid essentially underwrote the American Revolution.

We also know that President Thomas Jefferson purchased Louisiana from France, but we may not know that, just one month prior, Spain had ceded Louisiana to France.

The exhibition is organized in 10 sections, including the first accounts of geography; the development of missions, forts, roads and cities; land exchanges among Spain, France and the United States; the threat from Russian exploration and colonization; and the Revolutionary War. The exhibit includes details of Spain’s explorations and settlements in modern-day Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, California and Oregon.

We encourage teachers and homeschoolers to take advantage of the opportunity to fill in the gaps.

The lesson plans are geared to a variety of age groups, encourage individual and group work and provide an early learning lesson in the importance of working with original documents.

The Threads of Memory: Spain and the United States (El Hilo de la Memoria: España y los Estados Unidos) is sponsored by the Fundación Rafael del Pino and, along with the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies), and is co-organized with SEACEX (Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural Exterior), in collaboration with Spain’s Ministries for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Culture. The exhibition and lecture series are presented in New Mexico with special support from BBVA Compass Bank, the city of Santa Fe, Wells Fargo Bank, Heritage Hotels, Santa Fe University of Art & Design, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, the Palace Guard, and many individual donors.

Day of the Dead Meets the Palace Press

For a typography class she teaches at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Arlyn Nathan came up with a terrific idea: Pull her students away from their computers and into the Palace of the Governors Print Shop and Bindery (a/k/a The Palace Press). Instead of haphazardly choosing between Bodoni and Rod, they could learn their basics the old-fashioned way — by setting metal type, inking a press plate and discovering the scrub-til-it-hurts meaning behind “ink-stained wretch.”

studentsatPressTom Leech and James Bourland, the keepers of the Press, happily agreed and turned their “office” into a working classroom for the students.

Let Nathan explain why that matters:

“What sparked my love of letters was being able to hold one in my hand, metal type. The smell of the ink, the sound of rain when the letterpress is inked to perfection and the labor-intensive hours working with my hands, striving but for the ideal in my mind’s eye.  I wanted to replicate my  experience with my 12 students (all of whom are from Mexico).”

You can understand typography with your head, but it’s another thing to know it in your hands — “the Gutenberg way,” Nathan said.

Leech chose to focus the lessons on Jose Guadalupe Posada, a talented and prolific Mexican  illustrator well-known in part for his political cartoons. After hearing a lecture about Posada and viewing his original work with Bob Bell, a local collector and authority in the field, the students poured into the Press.

As a group, they agreed to create a broadside for the Day of the Dead about President Obama.

StudentsWithType“Together they composed two poems, one in English, the other in Spanish, an illustration of Obama as a calavera (skeleton), and as a class we designed a broadside,” Nathan said. “At the Palace of the Governors Print Shop, their poem was hand-set in lead type, a linoleum block was carved and several hundred broadsides were printed.”

(More on how you can obtain a copy in a minute…)

What have they learned?

“We have had a hands-on experience designing a project, setting type, and printing a broadside with a Vandercook letterpress,” Nathan said. “They now understand why we call the capital letters `upper case’ and the minuscule characters `lower case.’ They know the origin of the expression, `mind your Ps and Qs,’ and they have held in their hands the intangible space between lines of type called `leading.’ In essence, they have taken a step into the past to help them better understand and appreciate modern technology and the subtle nuances of typography.”

Here’s where you, dear reader, come in:

On Sunday, Oct. 31 (yes, Halloween), Nathan’s students will sell the product of their efforts at the New Mexico Museum of International Folk Art from 1-4 pm — or as long as the broadsides last. In true Posada style, the students, who will don calavera clothing for the museum’s Day of the Dead event, will ask for only a quarter in return. Yup. Twenty-five cents. Two bits. The same pittance that might otherwise buy a mere 15 minutes of downtown Santa Fe parking.

DayofDeadBroadside“It’s a broadside for centavos, Posada’s tradition come to life, not to mention a huge celebration for Dia de los Muertos,” Nathan said.

(And, like a true teacher, she invites you to quiz her students on where they’ll find their uppercase letters. Not to mention their Ps and Qs.)

NEH Teachers Take Up NM Crafts

NEH teachers - retablos 2The Palace Courtyard was cool, with a reasonable amount of shade this morning — a far cry from the lightning storm predicted for later today. A perfect time, in short, to try out a little plein air painting, New Mexico-style. The teachers participating in this week’s NEH-UNM program, “Contested Homelands: Knowledge, History and Culture of Historic Santa Fe,” ditched the lecture tables in favor of some hands-on activities: creating retablos and punched-tin frames, under the guidance of two notable New Mexico artists.

Santero Gabriel J. Vigil is a Raton native who gave up dreams of professional boxing to build an artist’s career in Santa Fe. Winner of multiple awards for his retablos and bultos at Spanish Market, he hasn’t forgotten his roots and regularly works with children, passing along his art skills to them. Thanks to that experience, he likely had a few tricks up his sleeve when he set out to teach our teachers. He gave them a few hints, provided some drawings for them to work off of, then set them loose.

The results? Soulful and stirring.

A group of teachers in the NEH-UNM workshop enjoy painting retablos on a cool Santa Fe morning.

A group of teachers in the NEH-UNM workshop enjoy painting retablos on a cool Santa Fe morning.

A sacred heart design takes wing.

A sacred heart design takes wing.

Inside the Palace, another group of teachers created a din usually reserved for construction sites. Cleo Romero, a Nambe-based artist, showed them a selection of her punched-tin work — which, in 2006, won top honors in Santa Fe’s Spanish Market. With the assistance of some patterns, nails and hammers, she let the participants work off any potential aggressions by pounding out their own creations.

NEH teachers - tinwork 2

Using a paper pattern, one of the teachers lines up her punched-tin design.

With Romero's works for inspiration (hanging, at right), teachers get to pounding.

With Romero's works for inspiration (hanging, at right), teachers get to pounding.

If any of that got you inspired,take note: Cleo will teach a free tinwork class next Wednesday from 10 am to 2 pm at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts. (Call 982-2226 for details.) For further inspiration, check out the online version of Treasures of Devotion; Tesoros de Devocion, the exquisite exhibit in the Palace of the Governors celebrating the work of New Mexico’s legendary santeros.

Whose Homeland Is It Anyway?

“Place is more than a museum. Place is more than stuff in a case. Place is an experience that is shared through connections with people over time.

With that, Erica Garcia, chief educator at the New Mexico History Museum, today began one of what will become many lessons for 40 kindergarten-through-high-school teachers. Gathered from across the nation at the museum this week (like a similar group last week), the teachers are studying the history and interactions between Native Americans and European settlers in a city where those peoples’ descendants still make history.

Erica Garcia (left) introduces teachers to the NM History Museum.

Erica Garcia (left) introduces teachers to the NM History Museum.

It’s also an education in how the settlement of America is not a story focused on familiar names like Jamestown and the Mayflower.

Contested Homelands: Knowledge, History, and Culture of Historic Santa Fe is a special program offered at the museum by the University of New Mexico’s College of Education. Funded by a $160,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Contested Homelands consists of two weeklong workshops held at the museum, with field trips around Santa Fe and Taos.

“Getting a chance to learn about New Mexico’s history in a place that saw so much of it makes this workshop unique,” Garcia said. “The Palace of the Governors is a living testament to the resiliency of New Mexico’s people and cultures. You can tell people about the history, but something special happens when they stand in its footprint.”

Contested Homelands aims to strengthen the teachers’ knowledge of pre-colonial America and stretch their understanding about the scope of European Colonial America – a topic that too often is taught as an east-to-west migration, overlooking the contemporaneous movements of Spanish colonists from south to north. Besides hearing distinguished scholars discuss topics ranging from historic sites to El Camino Real, participants get to try their hands at cultural creation, hammering out tinwork and designing their own retablos.

Garcia talks about the design of the Palace of the Governors during a walk around the Santa Fe Plaza.

Garcia talks about the design of the Palace of the Governors during a walk around the Santa Fe Plaza.

As this week’s session began, Garcia led the teachers on a tour of the Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors. Standing at the corners of Lincoln Avenue and San Francisco Street, she noted that the corner, once the terminus of El Camino Real, is now “a great place to get ice cream.” Moving down the sidewalk to the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and San Francisco Street, she told the teachers they had just reached the end of the Santa Fe Trail.

The Plaza that connects the trails, she said, has been the heart of Santa Fe life for four centures, with  wedding, executions, protest rallies, military enlistments and, just this weekend, a few nude cyclists.

Sprinkled in were stories of the Spanish colonization and its harsh encomienda system that led to the Pueblo Revolt; the technology of building with mud; and a nod to the Palace’s uniquely colonial security system: Anyone intending to storm the place was forced to simultaneously stoop through a low door while stepping up, thereby making themselves a slower and better target of inhabitants.

This week’s teachers hail from places as far from one another as Maine and Oregon, with Iowa, Chicago, the Carolinas, New Jersey, New York and San Antonio thrown in.

Among the questions participants will ponder: What are homelands? How do homelands stretch, shrink and shift over time? What happens when homelands overlap with one another? How does (perpetual) colonization, conquering, and resistance transform homelands and create new ones? What is the spiritual story of a homeland? How do the artistic products and structures of a homeland tell a story? What connections do people have to a homeland and how are these connections manifested in history and in present-day? And importantly, for the purpose of this workshop, how do the Camino Real and the Palace of the Governors exemplify the unfolding of homeland in an area that already had a vibrant system of Pueblo communities prior to European Settlement?

Using what they learn, the teachers will leave the workshop with something they can use in their classrooms – a lesson, a Power Point Presentation, an informational booklet to share with their students, a lecture.

Besides UNM and the museum, the program received support from the Office of the State Historian, Spanish Colonial Arts Society, Wells Fargo Bank, Albuquerque Historical Society, New Mexico Humanities Council, New Mexico Council for the Social Studies, National Geographic, La Montañita Coop, Dr. Thomas Keyes, Dr. Quincy Spuirlin, Dr. Rebecca Sánchez and Albert and Christine Sánchez.

While the workshops coincide with Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary, they make the point that the area’s history stretches centuries before that.

“Vibrant communities flourished in this place long before European exploration and later settlement,” Assistant Professor Rebecca Sánchez told UNM Today. “ As this region moved toward statehood, the United States inherited the memory and material creations of the region. When it became part of the U.S., the country had to incorporate this history into the national narrative of American history. The place is itself a homeland with a larger story.”

The NEH’s “Edsitement” arm has also selected Santa Fe for this month’s virtual excursion, an online opportunity for teachers and, really, anyone to learn more about this place where so many trails converged.