FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2014
Oldest museum publication in the United States
(Santa Fe, January 20, 2014)—El Palacio magazine celebrated its centennial in November 2013, joining a small but august group of publications in print still today; Scientific American (1845), Harper’s (1850), The Atlantic (1857), and National Geographic (1899). Setting El Palacio apart is its distinction of being the oldest museum magazine of its kind in the United States, first published by the Museum of New Mexico in November 1913.
The magazine’s name refers to the Museum of New Mexico’s first home, the Palace of the Governors, where it was established with the School of American Archaeology (later the School of American Research) alongside the already existing Historical Society of New Mexico.
Museum of New Mexico founder Edgar Lee Hewitt’s (1865-1946) intent with El Palacio’s easy-to-read articles was to promote both the museum and the School of American Archaeology (which he also headed) to patrons and sponsors. Articles ranged from the gossipy to the scholarly—tales of leisure trips abroad by Santa Fe’s A-list families and their sightings at exhibition openings were balanced by findings from archaeological trips to various continents. Today the magazine remains known for its articles of as much interest to the layperson as they are to the scholar with curators, scholars, and scientists contributing—the gossip now the purview of other media outlets.
Reflecting on the magazine, Richard Polese, El Palacio’s editor from 1976 to 1981 said, “It wasn’t what you’d call hard-core academic. It had good academic credentials and at the same time it reached a far more broad audience of people who were curious about this kind of investigation.” Current editor Cynthia Baughman says “We are proud to publish a variety of genres, ranging from poetry that arises from New Mexico’s cultural mix, to first-person memoir about life in New Mexico, to intriguing reports from the archaeological field and exciting new scholarship on Southwest art.”
As for the list of contributors over the past century, there’s no such thing as a short list without insulting those on the long list. These writers include those fondly remembered: Edgar Lee Hewett, Kenneth Chapman, E. Boyd, Richard Bradford, Marsden Hartley, Willa Cather, and Gustave Baumann, to happily those still with us: Cal Riley, Christopher Merrill, Douglas Preston, Arthur Sze, Jack Loeffler, John Nichols, Pam Houston, Kate Nelson, Lois Rudnick, Robin Farwell Gavin, Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, Les Daly, Frederick Turner, and Joseph Traugott.
Over the years El Palacio has taken many forms, from its beginning as a thin pamphlet, to a journal that grew from the ‘50s through the ‘80s, to the full-color glossy magazine we are familiar with today.
Publisher Shelley Thompson says, “As we pondered ways to mark this occasion, the El Pal team ultimately chose to invest in the digitization of our archives. Now, 100 years of stories, as recorded in the pages of the magazine, are online and free to scholars, students, friends, and fans.”
Marking its centennial, El Palacio assumed an additional identity when its entire archive for the first time became digitally accessible for free by anyone with access to the internet at http://archives.elpalacio.org/. The leap to an online magazine, like that of its peers, is undoubtedly next.
For 100 years El Palacio magazine has covered the art, culture, and history of the Southwest as reflected in the exhibits, programs, and scholarship of the Museum of New Mexico’s four Santa Fe museums—Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, and New Mexico Museum of Art; its seven Historic Sites—Coronado, Jemez, Fort Selden, Lincoln, Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner, Fort Selden, and El Camino Real International Heritage Center and the Office of Archaeological Studies, which collects and shares information about prehistoric and historic sites across the state.
The magazine’s longevity, reputation, and its openness have engendered a kind of familiarity. Fondly called “El Pal” by its scores of longtime readers and both past and current staff and writers, it is a source of singular merit for the Museum of New Mexico.
A link to a high resolution image of the centennial cover is here.