New Mexico History Museum

The 1960s: Great Dreams or Grim Nightmares? A RENESAN Symposium

October 05, 2017


(Santa Fe, NM) --  The way you answer that question may depend on your age, your gender, your geographic location, your income, and your race. The Bay Area, Mississippi, Taos, Greenwich Village, and Chicago tell different stories, with some common threads running through them. For some, it was a time of great promise and renewed social activism; for others, these same activities posed a challenge to the established order and a threat to national security.

RENESAN, Santa Fe’s Institute for Lifelong Learning, is collaborating with the New Mexico History Museum and the Palace of the Governors to expand the reach of its exhibit “Voices of Counter Culture in the Southwest” to the nation as a whole, examining some of the major issues raised by the times and exploring their impact on American culture today.  

Over the course of four days, November 13 to 16, scholars, writers, photographers, and activists, both local and national, will discuss the key themes that take these conversations far beyond the cliché of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

American historian David Farber, whose landmark book The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s provides deep background about the times leading up to the decade, gives the opening lecture and sets the stage for the talks to come by discussing the meaning and fracture of a national culture; the anti-communism of the era; and the big themes of Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the nascent women’s movement (gaining momentum in the 70s) and the conservative backlash of the political establishment. Now Roberts Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas, Farber taught at the University of New Mexico for a number of years and can speak knowledgably to local as well as national issues.

Santa Fe scholar Lois Rudnick focuses on the ways the era’s communes have affected current practices around food, agriculture, and conservation, and both she and Taos native Sylvia Rodriguez address identity, racial and class disparities. In her very thoughtful essay in the book accompanying the History Museum’s counterculture exhibit, Rodriguez, a Taos high schooler at the time, reminds us that the idealism of the Age of Aquarius failed to materialize as the country took a sharp turn to the right. Rudnick points to the 60s’ legacies that continue to affect New Mexican lives today, while Roberta Price, author/photographer, speaks to the hope that we can return to the sense of the infinite possibilities of those times.

Albuquerque resident (and former Weatherman) Mark Rudd talks about effective community organizing; Bette Evans reviews the civil rights movement and the courts; K. Paul Jones covers the Vietnam War (and whether we learned anything from it); Lisa Law shows her award-winning documentary film Flashing on the Sixties; and Jack Loeffler and Meredith Davidson, co-curators of Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest, present on the making of an exhibit in their lecture. A final panel offers different voices a chance for commentary, questioning, and summary, examining the overall impact of the 60s and how the long arc of history will judge the efforts to create a more just society.

Finally, when you’ve had all the thought-provoking talk you can take, there’s Good Vibrations, a symposium- closing1960’s dance party from 6 to 8 p.m., November 17, at the Santa Fe Women’s Club. $20. Tickets are limited so sign up early.

All lectures take place November 13 to 16 from 10AM to 3:30PM in the New Mexico History Museum’s Lecture Hall.  The cost of the full symposium is $125 and reservations must be made in advance. Round-trip daily shuttles will run between St. John’s United Methodist Church and the New Mexico History Museum. Cost for all four days is $25. Space is limited. Registration must be made in advance. Go to for full details or call (505) 982-9274.

And, celebrate at GOOD VIBRATIONS a 60’s Dance Party at the Santa Fe Women’s Club Nov 17, 6-8 PM $20. Register early.




Images: Divine Union, 1970, California. Museum Collection of Yogi Bhajan,Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma


About the New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors National Historic Landmark:

Opened in May 2009, as the state system’s newest museum, the New Mexico History Museum is attached to the Palace of the Governors National Historic Landmark, a distinctive emblem of U.S. history and the original seat of New Mexico government. The History Museum serves as an anchor of the campus that includes Palace of the Governors, the Palace Press, the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library, and Photo Archives. The Museum presents exhibitions and public programs that interpret historical events and reflect on the wide range of New Mexico historical experiences and serves as a history center for research, education and lifelong learning, delivering quality programs that encourage knowledge, understanding and appreciation of New Mexico’s diverse cultures. A division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. 113 Lincoln Ave. in Santa Fe, NM 87501. (505) 476-5200. Hours: 10 am to 5 pm daily, May through October; closed Mondays November through April.  Events, news releases and images about activities at the History Museum and other divisions in the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at

Related Photos

Divine Union, 1970, California. Museum Collection of Yogi Bhajan,Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma

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