New Mexico Museum of Art

1909 - 2009: 100 Years of the Museum of New Mexico

January 20, 2009

Merry Scully

Governor’s Gallery  


 This exhibition at the Governor’s Gallery inaugurates a year- long celebration of the Museum of New Mexico’s 100 year anniversary on February 19, 2009.

On February 19, 1909, the New Mexico Territorial Legislature passed House Bill 100 establishing the Museum of New Mexico.  A century later, the Museum of New Mexico has become a part of one of the nation’s largest state-run museum systems, including historic monuments, and other arts and cultural programs.  Now a part of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Museum of New Mexico consists of the State’s four original museums; New Mexico Museum of Art (formerly Museum of Fine Arts), Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Palace of the Governors/ New Mexico History Museum, and six State Monuments.

The 1909 pre-statehood legislation named Edgar Lee Hewett the museum’s first director and allotted it space in the Palace of the Governors.  Hewett, who simultaneously guided the museum while serving as director of the School of American Archaeology in Santa Fe (now the School of Advanced Research), was considered a pre-eminent scholar in Native American archaeology/anthropology and brought Santa Fe and New Mexico to national prominence as a cultural destination.

Hewett’s career in New Mexico began at the New Mexico Normal School, now New Mexico Highlands University. Moving on to become the museum director his guiding hand was felt from 1909 until his death in 1946.  He once claimed, “In no other state of this union is the trend of life so clearly shaped by art as in New Mexico.  Art has rescued this state from the commonplace and made it conscious of its own fine character.”

“The foresight of this early legislation can be credited with fostering the current culture of scholarship, preservation and display that permeates our state.   It is reflected in the wide range of both public and private collections that are housed here in New Mexico,” says exhibition curator Merry Scully.  

100 Years of the Museum of New Mexico will include select objects from the four museums’ diverse collections complimented by a selection of historic photographs and a brief timeline reflecting significant milestones in the Museum of New Mexico’s history.

On loan from the Palace of the Governors/ New Mexico History Museum are a few personal artifacts from Hewett’s field work; a pith helmet, monogrammed trowel, and a well stocked travel desk including stationary reflecting his simultaneous positions at the Museum of New Mexico, School of American Archeology, and the University of Southern California.  A remarkable Maria Martinez large polychrome ceramic jar from 1925 and an iconic Ansel Adams Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico are among special museum collection items on display in the exhibition.  

The highlight of the 100th will be the grand opening of the New Mexico History Museum on Memorial Day weekend 2009.

The exhibition opening and its reception hosted by the Women’s Board of the Museum of New Mexico will be February 19, 2009 on Culture Day at the New Mexico State Capitol. The reception will take place between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. and Culture Day will be all-day on February 19, 2009.

For a more complete timeline and information about events scheduled around the state to celebrate our 100 years, please go to

Media Contacts

Merry Scully, Curator, Governors Gallery



Steve Cantrell, PR Manager


505-310-3539 – cell



The Governor's Gallery is an outreach facility of the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Department of Cultural Affairs. The Governor's Gallery presents an average of six exhibitions per year, including the annual Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts. 

Information for the Public: 

The Governor’s Gallery is located on the 4th floor of the State Capitol at the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe, NM.  For more information call 505-476-5072 or visit

Hours:  Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. 

Admission:  Free.

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