The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/ Laboratory of Anthropology is a gem of a museum located on Museum Hill in Santa Fe New Mexico. This fascinating Indian art museum hopes to inspire appreciation for and knowledge of the diverse native arts, histories, languages, and cultures of the Southwest. A museum highlighting and showcasing the American Indian gives us the opportunity to learn more about the first humans who occupied this beautiful part of the United States. After all, the Indians of the southwest were there thousands of years before the first Spanish explorers landed on the North American continent.
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is part of the New Mexico museum system. This Santa Fe museum originally came about in answer to the unsystematic collecting by museums in the east. An anthropologist by the name of Edgar Lee Hewitt established the Museum of New Mexico in 1909. Hewitt’s goal was to collect Southwestern Indian materials. The second stage in the development of the museum occurred when John D. Rockefeller founded the Laboratory of Anthropology which had it’s goal of the study of Southwestern Native cultures. While all of this development was going on and artifacts collected, the exhibition of the material really wasn’t open to the public simply because there wasn’t sufficient space. Finally, in 1977, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bill providing $2.7 million for the building of a new New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. The Indian art museum opened ten years later and has been a great addition to the list of Santa Fe museums.
New Mexico tourism is highly connected to it’s excellent museums. Museum Hill, a very popular tourist site in Santa Fe, itself is quite a remarkable setting. Museum Hill is the site of four world class museums in one of the most picturesque sections of Santa Fe. In addition to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture feature both permanent and rotating exhibits. In addition, the museum is the venue for many special events during the year. Artist demonstrations, workshops and lectures are scheduled throughout the year. To give you an idea of past exhibitions at the museum and the type of unique events scheduled, in the year 2009 the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture featured “Native American Picture Books of Change”. This exhibition featured original works by Hopi, Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo artists who illustrated children’s books in the 1920’s through the present. Based on the book of the same title by Rebecca Benes, the exhibition focused on illustrations in Native American children’s books of the last century. Emerging Indian artists illustrated the stories for Indian students based on Native oral traditions and narratives about everyday Indian life. Exhibitions and demonstrations of this type have helped this Santa Fe museum reach it’s world renown status.
Many people spend an entire day at Museum Hill. With four world class museums available at one site along with an excellent cafe and shops in each of the museums, spending the day touring all four museums is a touring day very well spent.
For those tourist visiting Santa Fe New Mexico, getting to Museum Hill is quite easy. If you have an automobile, Museum Hill is about one and a half miles southeast of the Santa Fe plaza. For those without an automobile, the museums located at Museum Hill can be reached by taking the “M” line operated in collaboration with Santa Fe Trails, the city’s bus line. Departures start at 7:15 am from the Sheridan Street station and continue throughout the day.
Another interesting article we’ve published is Santa Fe Palace of the Governors
(Photos are from author’s private collection)