True West Magazine has given us the early word that its May edition will name the New Mexico History Museum as the nation’s top Western Museum.
“This is the result of years of hard work by many people,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the museum, which opened on May 23, 2009. “From designing a modern building in a historic setting to developing the exhibits to getting out the word, our staff and volunteers have come through time and again. We are honored by this recognition.”
In his write-up about the museum, Johnny D. Boggs, a Santa Fe author and historian, noted the overflow crowds that filled the museum on its opening weekend: “I hadn’t seen likes like this since I tried to get into a bookstore in Dallas, Texas, where actor Jimmy Stewart was authographing copies of his book of poetry. That was like trying to get into a Dallas Cowboys home playoff game.”
The magazine cites the museum’s large campus, which includes the Palace of the Governors, the nation’s oldest continuously occupied public building; Fray Angélico Chávez History Library; Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; Palace Press; and Native American Artisans Portal Program. Its core exhibit, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now, the magazine says, “is as diverse as the culture, and history, of New Mexico.”
Boggs writes that he admires the 96,000-square-foot building’s architecture, including the 300 handmade arrows that dangle from the ceiling in the core exhibit’s Pueblo Revolt area.
“Special events, kid-friendly activities and changing exhibits kept things hopping throughout 2009,” he writes. “Expect a busy year again at the New Mexico History Museum, and perhaps some more long lines, as 2010 is the year Santa Fe celebrates its 400th anniversary.”
Also in the magazine is an article noting 25 kid-friendly museums, and it names the Native American Artisans Portal Program (left) at the Palace of the Governors.
Other museums getting the magazine’s Top-10 Western Museums nod: the Adams Museum & House, Deadwood, S.D.; Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave, Golden, Colo.; Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas; High Desert Museum, Bend, Ore.; Plains Indian Museum, Cody, Wyo.; National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier, Idaho; Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City, Kan.; Cripple Creek District Museum, Cripple Creek, Colo.; Rim Country Museum, Payson, Ariz.
“These Western museums are important in preserving and exhibiting history and culture,” says True West Executive Editor Bob Boze Bell. “They keep the Old West alive.”
Boggs, who’s been honored four times with a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, selected the winners for this annual award based on his extensive travels, research and firsthand experiences in visiting Western museums each year. He analyzed their grand showcases of the American West in 2009—“and they had to be really cool,” says Boggs.