What 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.
In 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.”
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.”
This 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.”
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.”
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.
Debuting 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.